The President will be speaking before a Joint session of Congress and the American people tonight to discuss the State of the Union. The first State of the Union was delivered by President George Washington in January 1790 and since then has become a vehicle for a sitting President to outline his legislative agenda for the upcoming year.
During last year’s State of the Union address President Obama discussed the nation’s infrastructure crisis and referenced ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure as a reason why action must be taken to repair and maintain our nation’s roads, bridges, ports, water systems, dams, and rail. While it is not likely that the Report Card will be reference two years in a row, ASCE still has a few things that we would like to hear President Obama discuss.
ASCE hopes that President Obama calls on Congress to rebuild the infrastructure that once was the envy of the world and spur the innovative imagination that has historically defined this country. It is through a state of the art infrastructure and a growing number of students moving into fields like civil engineering, that America can ensure that the state of the our union will remain strong for years to come.
Since last year’s State of the Union address Congress has only been able to extend the surface transportation and FAA programs, instead of pass critical reauthorization bills. Additionally, since last January the National Dam Safety Program has expired and drinking water and wastewater state revolving funds continue to operate off of a 1987 authorization. At a time when the nation needs to create jobs and grow the economy in order to remain competitive, funding the nation’s infrastructure and producing students who excel in math and the sciences can prove to be the key.
Therefore, ASCE has defined several legislative priorities.
First, we need to rebuild America to compete in the 21st Century. For that reason ASCE calls on President Obama and Congress to:
- Pass a multi-year surface transportation bill at level funding.
- Finalize a FAA reauthorization in the next few weeks.
- Reauthorize the National Dam Safety Program for 5 years.
- Begin work on drinking water and wastewater SRF reauthorization bills in 2012.
- Take up a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that includes the creation of a national levee safety program.
Secondly, we need to support American innovation through several federal government run programs. ASCE would like to see President Obama and Congress:
- Pass legislation that would reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program.
- Reauthorize the existing Math and Science Partnerships program at the Department of Education.
- Increase funding annual funding for NIST and NSF programs.
Do not forget to also listen to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ Republican response to the State of the Union. ASCE hopes that Governor Daniels also asserts the importance of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and promoting innovation. These issues are not Democrat or Republican issues, but instead the key factors which make any country great.
ASCE will have a full report about the State of the Union in Friday’s edition of This Week in Washington!