Reaction To Obama SOTU Positive, But Ayotte, Collins Wonder About Cost

Photo courtesy of Pete Souza for the White House.
Photo courtesy of Pete Souza for the White House.

By Edward Donga
BU News Service

WASHINGTON – Members of the New Hampshire and Maine congressional delegations were generally pleased with the ambitious agenda that President  Obama put forth during his State of the Union address Wednesday night – although a couple of Republicans came away questioning how the president planned to pay for all of it.

Throughout the speech, Obama emphasized the importance of investing in programs such as education and infrastructure to grow the economy, along with bipartisan measures to reduce the federal deficit – such as comprehensive tax reform.

“The president certainly outlined a very ambitious agenda, but I’m very unclear of how he proposes to pay for all of it given our $16.4 trillion debt,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins, a leading GOP moderate, said her trepidation about how the president plans to pay for this agenda has even made her wary of programs that she would normally endorse.

“I personally think investment in infrastructure does make a lot of sense and would help to create jobs and improve our economy, but the president’s speech was very light on details for even a program like that, that I would be inclined to support,” Collins said.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., expressed similar concerns.

“He mentioned a number of new items on spending,” said Ayotte. “I didn’t hear how we’re going to pay for them.”

Despite her reservations on how the additional spending would be underwritten, Ayotte said there were portions of Obama’s speech where common ground might be found.

“Certainly there were some areas that I think were encouraging,” said Ayotte. “I would like us to do compressive tax reform to simplify our code. I’d like to see us lower rates and make sure that we’re competitive and make sure that the code is fair.”

The president’s economic proposals enjoyed bipartisan support within the Granite State delegation with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., praising Obama’s call for Congress to enact legislation to deal with the national debt and to avoid the so-called sequester – automatic budgets cuts now scheduled to kick in on March 1.

“I was pleased to hear the president talk about the importance of working together to address the debt and deficits and to stop the automatic cuts that are due to go into effect at the end of this month,” said Shaheen.

As Obama and Congress seek to tackle the pending economic challenges, there was agreement among the New Hampshire and Maine legislators – Democrats, Republicans and one independent – that it would have to be approached in a bipartisan manner to succeed.

“Simply said, we can neither tax nor slash our way to prosperity,” said newly elected Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, in a statement. “No one is going to be happy with how we get there, but we must make the tough choices and keep our promise to the American people.”

King’s sentiment was echoed by another freshman legislator, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H.

“Republicans and Democrats have already reduced the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, and both parties can and should work together to find additional savings and root out wasteful spending,” said Kuster. “But we need to do it in a balanced, bipartisan way that will help grow our economy and protect the middle class.”

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