Capitol Commentary: State of the Union Speech Outlines Support for Many SEMI Policy Priorities


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Capitol Commentary

State of the Union Speech Outlines Support for Many SEMI Policy Priorities

By Maggie Hershey, senior director, Americas Public Policy

As is required by the Constitution and honored by tradition, President Obama addressed Congress and the nation in the annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 25. The assembled Members of Congress made a statement of bipartisanship by sitting together for the speech, as opposed to the normally divided chamber. In his speech, the President made many remarks about the future of our nation and how we can get there together. Much of what the President had to say is good news for SEMI members and our industry. Below is a summary of the key points that are pertinent to SEMI members:

Support for Innovation

One of the major themes of this address to the nation was the message that innovation is key to “winning the future.” Two years ago, the President called for a level of research and development that had not been seen since the height of the “space race.” Obama said he would send a budget to Congress in a few weeks that would help meet that goal. The budget will contain investments for biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology.

Clean Energy Agenda

The President made a clear case for the need for American innovation with particular emphasis on clean energy. The president called for increasing the budget for clean energy technology and R&D to $8 billion, which is a 33 percent increase from 2010. Obama also called for a doubling of the share of electricity generated from “clean energy sources” by 2035, from 40 percent today to 80 percent. While this goes beyond wind and solar to includes to nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas, it could be a boon for the solar PV industry if there is a “carve out” for this resource.

Doubling Exports

To help businesses sell more products abroad, the Obama administration has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. The President remarked that exports are already up and have created many American jobs. In addition, he spoke of recent agreements that the United States has signed with India and China that will support more than 250,000 jobs in America. Obama also mentioned that his administration has finalized the trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs and urged Congress to act to pass this agreement quickly.

High Skills Immigration Reform

Obama used his platform in front of Congress to make a plea that both parties work together to address the topic of immigration reform. The President made special mention of the effort to grant citizenship to those the come to America and complete a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) in order to keep talented and educated individuals in this country.

Corporate Tax Reform

The President made the case in his speech for the need to lower what is now the highest corporate tax rate in the world in order to promote more investment by companies. “It makes no sense, and it has to change,” said Obama. This is a strong statement that tax reform will be near the top of this Administration agenda for the next two years.

While it is good to see so much support for areas of policy that are important to SEMI members, it is important to recognize that many of these initiatives require acts of Congress to be passed into law. With the great string of bipartisan achievements after the mid-term elections during the “lame duck” session of the last Congress, there is some hope for future bipartisan collaboration. On the other hand, there are signs already of positioning for the 2012 elections, so it will remain an interesting time in Washington. SEMI and its Washington D.C. office will continue to work on these issues throughout 2011. If you have public policy questions, please contact Jamie Girard (jgirard@semi.org).

February 1, 2011