Highlights of Obama's State of the Union Address
(Reuters) - The following are highlights from U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday.
Jobs and the economy
To help Americans prepare for retirement, Obama will use executive authority to create a "starter" retirement savings account available through employers for workers who can afford to save only small amounts at a time. He also wants to drop retirement tax breaks that apply to wealthy Americans already well positioned for retirement and increase the earned income tax credit for people without children.
Through an executive order, Obama said he would raise the minimum wage for workers holding federal contract jobs to $10.10 and will continue pressing Congress to make that rate the prevailing federal minimum wage nationally. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
To strengthen the long-term U.S. fiscal position, Obama committed to paying for new initiatives and supporting more budget deficit reduction. Using his executive authority, Obama will start four more manufacturing innovation institutes this year and wants Congress to create up to 45 more. He also will pursue a trans-Pacific partnership and an agreement with the European Union to boost U.S. exports.
Obama urged Congress to pass an extension of emergency unemployment insurance. His efforts to get the long-term unemployed back to work will include a meeting this week with leading chief executive, and federal job-training programs will be reviewed to bring them in line with market demands. He also called for bringing outsourced work back to the United States and advocated discrimination protection for women and gays in the workplace.
Obama said a further 15,000 schools and 20 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade would have access to high-speed internet service in the next two years as part of his plan to have 99 percent of American students on next-generation connectivity. Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon will be part of the education-tech push and more partnerships will be announced in coming weeks. He also renewed his call for pre-kindergarten schooling for all 4-year-olds, as well as innovation in preparing students for college and making college more affordable for them.
Climate and energy
Obama proposed incentives for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that run on alternative fuels and he will continue his broader campaign to move America toward clean energy sources. He also called for safe natural gas production.
Obama renewed his call for securing U.S. borders, cracking down on those who hire illegal immigrants and offering a path to citizenship, saying such reforms would create thousands of jobs and boost the economy by $1 trillion over two decades.
Guantanamo and foreign policy
Obama said the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed this year. He did not mention plans for troop levels in Afghanistan, but said America must move off permanent war footing. He stood by an international interim agreement to get Iran to curb its nuclear program and vowed to veto anything from Congress that would impose more sanctions on Tehran while the United States and other Western powers are in diplomatic talks with Iran.
He defended his healthcare reform and said he would continue working for voters' rights and against gun violence. Obama renewed his call to wind down mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, urging Congress to pass legislation that rebuilds the mortgage market to rely more on private capital.