President Obama gave his State of the Union Address in February, and between all the political rhetoric and criticism, there were signs that the administration’s direction could affect the construction industry.
Job creation was the predominant theme throughout the speech, and to create jobs and economic growth, President Obama proposed more reinvestment in rebuilding infrastructure.
While the question of whether Congress can successfully navigate the sequester lingers, Obama put forth the “Fix-It-First” program.
“I propose a ‘Fix-It-First’ program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” he said. “And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.”
The whole theme of focusing on modernizing the United States’ facilities was prevalent in the speech, and the president returned multiple times to the goal of attracting businesses. One specific area in which electrical contractors will be instrumental is in energy efficiency.
“I’m also issuing a new goal for America,” he said. “Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years. We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.”
He also appealed for tax reform to reduce paperwork burdens on small businesses and make it easier to conduct business in America.
“The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time expanding and hiring—a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hardworking secretaries; a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America,” Obama said.
Elsewhere, Obama focused on America’s workers. He proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour and introduced the idea of tying the minimum wage to the cost of living. This isn’t a new idea, and it has received bipartisan support in the past.
Further on the employee front, Obama again proposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, in an effort to level the pay disparity between males and females.
“I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year,” he said.
Whether Congress will actually accomplish any of these tasks remains to be seen, but understanding the intent of the Obama administration and potential direction of the federal government can be key to planning for your business in the years ahead.