President Barack Obama urged Congress to help restore opportunity for Americans but pledged to take action himself Tuesday in his fifth State of the Union address before Congress. Some highlights from Obama’s economic and other proposals:
—MINIMUM WAGE: An executive order to raise minimum wage paid by federal contractors to $10.10. He called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10. Last year, Obama asked Congress to raise the rate to $9 by the end of 2015, but Congress has not taken that step.
—RETIREMENT SECURITY: Create a new savings account program to help people start saving for retirement. Obama is asking the Treasury to create a bond called MyRA that can be offered through employers as a “starter” retirement account. Call for Congress to create automatic IRAs for all workers who don’t opt out. Obama has included this in previous budget requests but Congress hasn’t acted on it.
—IMMIGRATION: Renew call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration overhaul this year, including a path to citizenship for about 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally. Bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate, but the House prefers a piecemeal approach. House Republicans are meeting this week and are expected to outline their principles for an immigration overhaul.
—CLIMATE AND ENERGY: Set new fuel efficiency standards for trucks. Introduce first-of-its-kind emissions limits on power plants. Work with states and communities on climate change resiliency and cutting pollution. Cut red tape to help states build factories that use natural gas. Propose new incentives for trucks that use alternative fuels like natural gas. Urge Congress to end tax benefits for the oil industry and use revenues to invest in advanced vehicles that use cleaner fuels.
—TAXES: Expand the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Some Republicans and conservative economists have called for similar expansion of the credit. Overhaul tax code to eliminate wasteful loopholes while lowering rates for businesses to incentivize hiring in the U.S.
—HEALTHCARE: Encourage Americans without insurance to sign up through new exchanges by March 31 deadline. Urge Republicans to give up attempts to repeal Obama’s health care law.
—EDUCATION: Connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students with high-speed broadband in the next two years. Award grants to redesign winning high schools to prepare students for today’s job market. Improve access for low-income students and lower costs. Renew call to Congress to fund universal preschool.
—JOBS: Launch more high-tech manufacturing hubs, in addition to two that were launched this year. Direct Vice-President Joe Biden to lead review of federal job-training programs. Partner with leading U.S. companies to help long-term unemployed.
—AFGHANISTAN: Wind down war in Afghanistan by removing most troops and completing mission by end of this year. Work to negotiate security agreement with Afghanistan so small force can remain to train Afghan forces and pursue al-Qaida.
—FIGHTING TERRORISM: Limit use of drones in foreign countries. Overhaul U.S. surveillance programs to restore public confidence. Renew call for Congress to lift transfer restrictions so Guantanamo Bay prison can be closed.
—IRAN: Pursue negotiations with Iran toward a long-term nuclear deal. Threaten to veto new sanctions that Congress passes during ongoing nuclear talks. Vow to push for more sanctions if talks with Iran don’t succeed.