President’s State of the Union Address Highlights Priorities for 2012
On Tuesday evening, Jan. 24, President Obama addressed Congress to lay out his priorities going into a contentious election year. Some of the issues he raised were taken right out of the HR policy playbook.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address, discussed the importance of such issues as skills gaps, veterans’ employment, education incentives, immigration, tax reform, and the payroll tax deduction extension – issues HR professionals have been advocating during his three years in office.
In his remarks, the president focused on what HR has been saying for years – the U.S. workforce is ill-prepared for the job needs of the future. President Obama said American companies want to hire workers, “but can’t find workers with the right skills.”
He challenged organizations to commit to helping provide two million Americans with the skills they need to find employment. Obama also touched on tax reform and the need for access to affordable education. SHRM continues to make the case for extending the employer-provided education assistance tax credit (Section 127), which is set to expire at the end of 2012.
Tuesday also marked the first public meeting of congressional conferees tasked with extending unemployment insurance benefits and the Social Security payroll tax cut for the remainder of 2012. The president called on Congress to reach consensus and extend the tax cut. “Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile.” Congress has until the end of February to reach an agreement.
The president also stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform. While this issue will likely generate some smoke, it’s unlikely there will be enough fire during this election year for a bill to make it through Congress and to the President’s desk.
The most prominent possibility for action is the SHRM-supported Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 2885), which the House Judiciary Committee approved in September. The bill would require employers to use E-Verify, but it would provide liability protection to employers using E-Verify in good faith, preempt the growing number of state employment verification laws, and create a pilot program for a biometric identification system.