Local issues take center stagePublished 5:13pm Saturday, February 1, 2014
Americans each year get swept up in the big federal-level issues after the State of the Union address. In the end, however, it is the local issues that really affect them.
That’s why it was positive to hear President Barack Obama mention issues that directly impact city and county governments Tuesday in his State of the Union address to Congress.
He spoke of issues such as transportation and water infrastructure, economic development and health care. Immigration reform was mentioned, too, and while that does seem like a national issue — to be sure, it is — it sure has a local impact. Immigration has changed the ethnic and labor demographics of southern Minnesota.
In 2013, only 54 county economies — mostly in the Midwest — reached their pre-recession levels of unemployment, according to the National Association of Counties.
A federal investment in local economic development makes a difference. We especially hope the Obama administration sees the need to push economic development in rural places as well as urban. Development of less-developed areas, after all, is how government can best improve tax bases.
Obama called on Congress to pass a new surface transportation law — good for jobs and for supporting local government’s ever-rising construction costs — and to pass a revised version of Water Resources Development Act, which hasn’t been touched since 2007. Like farm bills, it is updated every few years. A new act would create jobs and authorize flood-control and navigation projects.
While the Affordable Care Act has had rollout problems, access to health care — the heart of the issue — was the reasoning behind the measure. And access to health care is important to a local workforce, even if the ACA itself is hampered by bureaucratic rules. Healthy workers are better workers, and any sound government knows that. This issue won’t simply go away, as some folks hope, and we hope leaders will continue to hammer out solutions. The government solution might be more of a camel than a horse, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Finally, America needs comprehensive immigration reform. Products can flow freely across international borders, yet we make criminals out of people who simply wish to have a job on the other side of an imaginary line. What’s worse, gridlock in both parties have prevented Congress from doing its job of fixing this problem.
We don’t agree with everything Obama said Tuesday, but we were glad to hear him address several issues that have local impacts. America needs to do nation building in this nation these days, not elsewhere.