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Embattled Obama vows progress in State of the Union speech
Area leaders agree with president's focus on economy, jobs
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Poll: What did you think of the speech? 

Speech highlights

Economy/jobs

  • Urged passage of a second jobs bill as its first order of business this year.
  • Proposed using $30 billion repaid by Wall Street banks to help community banks lend money to small businesses so they can stay afloat.
  • Proposed new tax credit for small business that hire workers or raise the wages of current employees.

Health care

  • Urged Democrats dispirited by the loss of their 60-vote Senate majority not to abandon the effort to overhaul the health care system.

Federal spending

  • Proposed a three-year freeze on most domestic spending, beginning in 2011. Spending on national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would be exempt.

Iraq

  • Reiterated pledge to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.

Education

  • Proposed $10,000 tax credit for four years of college, along with higher Pell Grants.

Immigration

  • Said the government should continue working to fix a broken system by securing borders and enforcing laws.

The Associated Press

 

Click here for the full text of Obama's speech.

President Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address Wednesday evening, urging Congress to not give up on reform.

The lengthy speech touched on federal spending, health care, the military and education. But it was the emphasis on the economy and job creation that made the most impact on Hall County officials and residents.

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who attended the speech, said it included many plans he believes the president has yet to act on.

Though the president spoke of Republicans and Democrats putting their differences aside for the benefit of the American people, he hasn’t seen it happen.

“This has been the most exclusive operation of Congress I have seen in the 18 years I have been in Congress,” Deal said.
“He’s not demonstrated he’s willing to do that.”

The partisan attitude has extended into health care discussions in Congress.

“He really hasn’t heard what the American people were trying to say all during the fall,” Deal said. “He’s still persisting with the same health care bill that I think the public has resoundingly rejected. That is disappointing.”

Deal said there were also “some good proposals” during the address.

“I like the provisions in the speech where he talked about energy, especially where he said he believed we needed to move forward with new clean, safe nuclear energy,” Deal said. “But he came back and put in the context of the cap-and-trade bill, or the climate change bill, which I think indicates he really has not changed his policies.”

Deal said the emphasis on job creation also was significant.

“Obviously I agree that we can do better with regard to jobs,” Deal said. “I think there was unanimous appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.”

Eric Gray, communications director with the Democratic Party of Georgia and a Hall County resident, said he was pleased with Obama’s address.

“It was substantial, it had definite policy implications,” Gray said. “I think he’s a wonderful speaker, a wonderful orator, but this time he decided to really put some meat in the speech.”

Gray thinks the president’s proposed spending freeze and education reform will be especially important.

“It was refreshing to hear; I enjoyed it,” Gray said. “I’m glad I voted for him. I think I made the right choice, and I think America made the right choice.”

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the most significant part of the president’s speech was his focus on the economy.

“The first order of business is job creation,” Dyer said. “Education can thrive in a healthy economy.”

Jim Pilgrim, chairman of the Hall County Republican Party, said the president’s speech was too optimistic.

“He told the American people what they wanted to hear,” Pilgrim said. “If he does everything he says we’ll have utopia.”

Pilgrim said he didn’t like how many of the solutions the president proposed for the nation’s problems involved the federal government.

But the president’s ideas on the economy were welcome words for Pilgrim, too.

“Jobs and the economy are the No. 1 priority and it was a year ago,” Pilgrim said. “It may be too little too late.”

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