President Obama skirts highway funding in State of the Union address

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President Barack Obama delivered the 2015 State of the Union address Jan. 21.President Barack Obama delivered the 2015 State of the Union address Jan. 21.

Departing from recent norms in his State of the Union addresses, President Barack Obama on Tuesday made only brief mention of infrastructure funding and no mention of issues related directly to trucking or transportation in the 2015 edition of the annual address to Congress.

The president’s indirect remarks about highway funding came as part of a larger push he made in the address for modernizing and boosting U.S. infrastructure overall.

“Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet,” Obama said. “Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.  So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.  Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

In last year’s State of the Union address, the president pushed hard for a long-term highway bill, fleshing out U.S. infrastructure for natural gas and for improving fuel efficiency for heavy trucks.

This year, however, Obama’s address focused on economic gains the country has seen in recent years and “middle-class economics,” pitching proposals for free community college, paid sick leave for employees and using potential tax increases on the rich to fund other projects. He also spent time on international policy, mostly focused on the U.S.’ force against the Islamic State in the Middle East.

He did not mention increasing fuel taxes or other highway funding specifics.

Likewise, in the official Republican response to the president’s address, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was also quiet on highway funding and transportation issues. Her only mention of infrastructure funding came as a push for U.S. support for building the Keystone XL pipeline.