Following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) is pleased that the President is focused on shaping an economy that creates more opportunity for hardworking Americans.
“Today, President Obama touched on three key themes that should resonate with every American: opportunity, action, and optimism,” Congressman Garamendi said. “Opportunity: we must provide ladders of mobility to the middle class. Action: Congress and the Administration should work together on behalf of the American people. Optimism: Since the Great Recession, we’ve been through a rough patch in our country, but America’s best days are still to come.”
“I still believe that there is nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America, and I will do all I can to work with the President and my colleagues to build the middle class,” he added.
Making America Work for All Americans
“America is the richest country in the history of the planet. Hardworking Americans deserve leaders in Washington working with them to bring a broader share of that tremendous wealth back to the middle class and those struggling to make it there. Through smart investments in education, research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and protections for workers and families, we can expand the middle class,” Congressman Garamendi said. “The President presented a lot of ideas worth considering today, and they deserve a fair hearing in Congress.”
Congressman Garamendi was especially pleased to learn about President Obama’s plan to help community colleges build partnerships with businesses so that as industries’ skills needs change, community colleges can quickly adapt. He also welcomed the President’s collaboration with business leaders to bring opportunity to the long-term unemployed.
Congressman Garamendi is a leader in Congress for Make It In America policies that prioritize federal investments in infrastructure projects that employ American workers and purchase goods and equipment made in America.
Raising the Minimum Wage
“President Obama’s clarion call to raise the minimum wage is especially welcomed. Two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women; a quarter have children; and a third are over the age of 35. I’m convinced the votes exist in both the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage, and all it takes to find out is a simple up-or-down vote,” Garamendi added. “The executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for new federal contractors is a small but important step on this road, and I thank the President for his leadership on this issue. Every American should be able to reach for their American Dream.”
Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would make sure that no family of four with a full-time worker falls below the poverty line. It has been seven years since Congress last acted to increase the minimum wage and, adjusted for inflation, today the real value of minimum wage is roughly the same as what it was in the 1950s.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
In his address, President Obama reiterated the need for comprehensive immigration reform, a bipartisan policy that passed the Senate by a 68-32 vote but is stalled in the House because House Republican Leadership has thus far refused to act on legislation. Congressman Garamendi is a cosponsor of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, H.R. 15, a House bill to finally deliver comprehensive immigration reform to America.
“The need for comprehensive immigration reform is clear. We need realistic immigration policies in America that reword hard work, keep families together, give DREAMers a shot at their American Dream, enable immigrant entrepreneurs to start small businesses, protect our nation from violent criminals, and meet the needs of farmers and agricultural workers,” Garamendi said. “Comprehensive immigration reform passed comfortably in the Senate, and the President has made it clear that he wants to sign a bill. The only barrier to passage is the House Republican Leadership; they need to let us vote.”
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, enactment of the bipartisan Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill would reduce the deficit by $850 billion. CBO also estimates that the Senate-passed bill would increase economic growth by 3.3% in 2023 and 5.4% in 2033.
Education: The Most Direct Path to the Middle Class
During the President’s address, he announced a plan to connect 20 million students in 15,000 schools to next-generation broadband and wireless technology within the next five years – a worthy and needed goal to stay competitive with other advanced countries. The President also further promoted his initiative to improve graduation rates at colleges and to develop a metric that identifies which colleges offer the best value to students of modest means.
“As a former UC Regent and parent of three UC Davis graduates, I’ve long believed that public education is the path out of poverty for millions of Americans,” Garamendi said. “The President has some good ideas on making colleges more accountable to the mission of offering an affordable education, and I look forward to seeing more students have access to the latest technologies that will keep our workforce at the top of the global talent pool.”
The President also announced a comprehensive effort to rethink high school education, with a renewed emphasis on vocational skills and STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering) education. President Obama also called on Congress to invest in universal pre-kindergarten education.
Garamendi said, “This Congress has in recent months pushed forward reckless cuts to the Head Start early childhood education program, a great disservice to working families and children with great potential. The creation of universal pre-kindergarten education is very important to me, and I’m glad the President made it a priority tonight. On the high school level, it’s incredibly important that all students have marketable skills to ensure their place in the middle class, which is why I’m glad the President is moving forward with vocational and STEM education as a priority.”
As a former University of California Regent and California State Trustee, Garamendi has long opposed policies that increase the cost of a college education, and he has called for an expansion of vocational education programs that help make sure every student in America leaves with marketable skills that put them on a path to the middle class.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
President Obama reiterated his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act and give women more tools to fight pay discrimination. Congressman Garamendi is a cosponsor of this important legislation.
“I’m the proud father of five daughters. For me, paycheck fairness is personal. Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work,” Congressman Garamendi said.
Nationwide, women earn 77 cents to the dollar, and Latinas earn 53 cents to the dollar. We can do better as a nation.
President Obama urged Congress to pass a three-month extension of emergency unemployment insurance for the long-term employed as we work on a more permanent solution. Congressman Garamendi strongly supports this policy.
“America needs a comprehensive jobs bill, one that invests in research, clean energy, and infrastructure. So long as there are three jobseekers for every one job opening, to cut off long-term unemployment insurance is simply cruel and financially unsound,” Garamendi said.
An End to Workplace Discrimination
President Obama reiterated the need for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide strong federal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers.
“Every American deserves to work free from discrimination. California already protects the LGBT community from being unjustly terminated for their sexual orientation, and it’s time for those protections to be extended nationwide,” Garamendi said. “I join President Obama in calling on the House to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It’s the right thing to do.”
Federal law already prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and disability. In 29 states, it is currently legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation.