Weekly Column

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Jan 27 2012

"The State of the Union"

Weekly Column By Senator Collins

The Constitution requires that, each year, the President of the United States report on the state of our union. The State of the Union speech is the President's opportunity to outline his Administration's accomplishments over the past year and to lay out his national priorities and legislative agenda for the year to come. It's also an opportunity for Congress to focus on the issues and challenges that are important to our country.

During his recent State of the Union address, the President agreed that the greatest challenge we continue to face is the critical need to restore growth and create jobs in our economy. Thirteen million Americans remain out of work, and our unsustainable debt exceeds $15.2 trillion. This is unacceptable. Soon, the President will release the details of his budget proposal for the next year. In this time of escalating deficits, it is important that we rein in spending and get our financial house in order while also taking into account our nation's priorities. I am hopeful that the President's promise to seek bipartisan consensus on the important issues is more than election year rhetoric. Americans want the President and Congress to work together to offer solutions.

Putting Americans back to work is the key to economic recovery and must be the number-one goal for Congress. Late last year, I joined with my Democratic colleague, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, to introduce the Bipartisan Jobs Creation Act. Our plan would create jobs by cutting taxes for small businesses, investing in the nation's critical transportation infrastructure, cutting the tangle of red-tape that is holding businesses back from expanding and adding jobs, and fundamentally reforming the hodge-podge of federal jobs training programs to focus on what really works. I am disappointed that the President has called for raising taxes on small businesses when we have proposed a plan that is fully paid for with a surtax on multi-millionaires and billionaires, but with a "carve out" to help protect small business owners, and an end to tax giveaways to big oil companies.

In his speech, the President also acknowledged the burden that unnecessary regulations impose on America's job creators. I hope the President will follow through by supporting real reform proposals pending in Congress. I have introduced legislation to impose a one-year moratorium on any 'significant' new rules that would have an adverse impact on jobs, the economy, or America's international competitiveness. A one-year moratorium on such regulations is a common-sense solution that would help create jobs.

In addition, Congress should pass comprehensive tax reform. We must make our tax system fairer, simpler, and more pro-growth. Our current tax code is far too complex, and often hurts those who are the least able to afford it.

I am encouraged by the President's plan to create jobs by investing in clean energy. To help reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and to ensure the United States leads the world in developing renewable energy technologies, significant investments are needed to develop the technology and make its deployment affordable.

In Maine, for example, deepwater offshore wind has enormous potential. Estimates show that development of just five gigawatts of offshore wind in Maine - a fraction of the potential-- could power more than 1 million homes, attract $20 billion of investment, and create more than 15,000 green energy jobs that would be sustained over 30 years. Companies around the globe are already aggressively pursuing deepwater, offshore technologies, and the work of the University of Maine and the DeepCwind consortium is at a critical juncture. We must make investments in order not to lose the technology race, and to ensure that this potentially massive energy source is developed here at home. I want those jobs to be in Maine, not China, which has now surpassed the United States in the production of solar panels.

Another vital engine of our economy that the President mentioned in this year's State of the Union is cyberspace. We cannot afford to wait for a "cyber September 11th" before our government finally realizes the importance of protecting our digital resources, limiting our vulnerabilities, and mitigating the consequences of penetrations of our networks. The annual cost of cybercrime worldwide has climbed to more than $1 trillion - billions of dollars annually in the United States. As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I am pleased that the Administration has now engaged on this imperative issue. Experts continue to tell me that the cyber arena is where the biggest gap exists between the threat level and our preparedness. Addressing the threat will take action from both Congress and the White House.

It is clear that our nation faces serious challenges both home and abroad. But let there be no doubt that we are the strongest nation on Earth, and we will continue to have the resolve to meet these challenges and those yet to come. Congress and the President must be willing to work together, to seek common ground, and get the job done. Americans deserve no less.