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Congressman Tom MacArthur

Representing the 3rd District of New Jersey

State of the Union Preview

January 20, 2015
Blog Post

Tonight, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, and there are a couple of key areas he’s expected to talk about that I wanted to highlight. First, the President is expected to discuss a number of proposals that he believes will bolster the middle class and get people back to work. As New Jersey’s unemployment rate is almost a whole percentage point higher than the rest of the country, I’m interested in hearing his ideas and working across the aisle on concrete, meaningful solutions.

However, there are some parts of the President’s address where I’m worried that a lack of details leaves too many unanswered questions. For example, his call to make community college more affordable and accessible for all Americans is a worthy goal. We have 19 community colleges in New Jersey, and two in our district, that are valuable parts of our education system. But I’m concerned about where we’ll find the $60 billion to fund this idea, given our current financial situation. On top of that, we’re just not sure what an influx of federal money would do to the underlying cost of community college. I agree with the President’s overall goal of increasing access to education, but we have to be smart about how we do it.

That’s why I’m also concerned about some new details we learned over the weekend regarding the President’s tax plan, like a new tax on families saving for college with 529 plans and a nearly 50% increase on the death tax rate. In particular, taxing college savings plans will directly target middle class families who use these accounts the most. It just doesn’t make sense to me to hurt South Jersey families who have been putting aside money for years so their kids can go to any of our fine New Jersey schools. If we truly want to increase access to education, taking away incentives that encourage families to save money seems like a step in the wrong direction.

Ultimately, I’m hopeful that the President uses tonight’s address to highlight opportunities for the White House and Congress to work together. While there may be things we disagree on, the State of the Union can be a chance to bring both parties together, and I’m looking forward to hearing the President’s ideas for a productive and cooperative year.