By Carolyn Coleman
National League of Cities (NLC) President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, Arizona, had an up close and personal view of President Obama's State of the Union address last week. She was one of a handful of individuals invited to sit through the address in the House chamber as a guest of the First Lady. Besides acknowledging the honor, she also praised the President for focusing the address on the need for federal action to help cities address key issues they are facing: the economy, jobs and immigration, all of which are top priorities for NLC.
"Many of our cities still face stubborn unemployment and fragile economic growth," she said. "For those reasons, we support the President's commitment to making urgently needed investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, housing and education that will help build a foundation for future growth for years to come."
In his speech, the President spoke of signs of a recovering economy with millions of new jobs created, a healing housing market, and a rebounding stock market. But, he also warned of the unfinished business related to the federal budget, and the consequences the impending sequester or automatic spending cuts would have on our economy.
"They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs", Obama said. And that's why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts -- known here in Washington as "the sequester" -- are a really bad idea." Instead of the sequester, the President continued his call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction with spending cuts and revenue, a position that NLC supports.
In addition to laying out his plan for deficit reduction, the President outlined his broader vision for growing the economy that would create middle-class jobs through infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, housing and education investments, none of which he said should increase the deficit.
The President also challenged Congress in the speech to send him a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months to sign and outlined his requirements for "real reform": (1) strong border security; (2) establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship, a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally; and (3) fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.
With the victims of gun violence, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, also joining President Rogers as guests in the chamber, President Obama ended the speech by calling for a vote on tough new laws being considered in the Senate to reduce gun violence. "Each of these proposals," he said, "deserves a vote in Congress."