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State of the Union Speech Highlights Minimum Wage, Economic Concerns

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State of the Union Speech Highlights Minimum Wage, Economic Concerns

January 31, 2014

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama addressed Congress in his fifth State of the Union speech since taking office. He called for changes to the tax code, immigration reform, and raising the minimum wage. He also urged people to sign up for health coverage in the new insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While urging bipartisan cooperation from members of Congress, Obama pledged to step up use of executive orders to make policy.

One of the most notable promises made in the address was to use executive order to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10/hr. He then urged Congress to follow that lead, and pass a law that would raise the federal minimum wage for all workers to the same level. (The executive order would not alter the application of section 14(c) certificates, which has prompted a response from some disability groups, including the National Council on Disability (NCD), pressing for the end of the use of subminimum wage. You may read NCD's letter to President Obama and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez here.) Obama also highlighted the wage inequality between men and women in the workforce.

Obama talked about several large-scale issues, including climate change, gun violence, and foreign policy, but limited concrete proposals to a smaller scope. Some of these include using executive orders to improve public access to broadband, created retirement savings bonds, and reform federal training programs. Overall, the speech was moderate, neither a rousing call to arms nor defensive for the rocky implementation of the ACA and other challenges the administration has been criticized for in the past year.

Video, transcript, and other materials from the 2014 State of the Union address may be found here.