President Obama ‘Goes Local’ with New Initiatives in State of the Union Address

Washington, D.C. - Following President Obama's State of the Union address tonight, National League of Cities (NLC) President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah, issued the following statement:

"Tonight in his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined progress through economic times and spoke about a number of initiatives to ‘go local' and help the middle class grow and prosper in the years to come. Many of the president's initiatives recognize that cities are where the action is and support the innovation already underway in many communities. Cities have become the economic engines that power the economy and create jobs for millions of Americans. But to continue our growth, cities need strong federal partners and policies that support the action, innovation, collaboration and results that are unique to municipal government.

"Economic development and jobs remain at the forefront of local leaders' agendas. In NLC's State of the Cities report tracking local priorities, 98 percent of mayoral state of the city speeches covered economic issues and jobs, and many highlighted the growing disparities between low- and high-income earners. While there is no easy solution for solving inequality, we support the president's goal to improve the economic prospects for middle class Americans. This includes the broadband initiative the president introduced last week that would increase access to broadband because of its vital role in supporting economic growth and educational opportunities in communities.

"The president's proposal includes reforming the tax structure, which we believe must include passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act to bring our sales taxes system into the 21st century by enabling local stores and online sellers to operate under the same rules. This long-overdue bill has received bipartisan support and wouldn't impose any new taxes-it would just provide a mechanism for cities to collect the sales taxes already owed to them.

"Congress and the Administration must also focus on renewing a long-term federal surface transportation program that makes our infrastructure more efficient and provides new modes of transit to help all members of our communities access jobs, education and healthcare. To help control costs, we need the certainty, reliability and stability that a long-term program provides. Federal investment in local infrastructure creates local jobs and boosts our local economies. That is why we're calling for a new program to include greater local decision-making in selecting which projects in our communities are funded.

"The Marketplace Fairness Act and a new transportation program are key tools that cities need to invest in infrastructure and grow local economies. With widespread bipartisan support for both initiatives, there is no excuse for further Congressional inaction in 2015.

"We are pleased that the president is examining new funding mechanisms like the Qualified Public Infrastructure Bond (QPIB) to support infrastructure growth and development. However, QPIB must not lead to changes to the traditional tax-exempt municipal bonds. The tax exemption on municipal bonds is a smart, cost-effective and safe mechanism for state and local governments, investors and the federal government to partner in developing and maintaining our national infrastructure. Changes that would eliminate or limit the exemption would increase the costs for localities to finance much-needed infrastructure projects and result in less infrastructure investment, fewer jobs and a greater tax burden on our residents.

"In the wake of Ferguson and on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the president called for unity among police, local elected officials and the people that they serve. We agree that it will take a combined effort by Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement to improve police and community relationships. This is not a partisan issue, and it is not a black versus white issue. It is an American issue, and one that we can only solve by working together.

"We call on Congress and the Administration to put aside partisan differences and work together to solve the tough issues facing cities and their residents today. The National League of Cities and our members are eager to roll up our sleeves and get down to the hard work. We look forward to working with our federal partners to accomplish these goals."

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.