Wednesday, January 20, 1999

President's issues have local impact

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Whether the issue is Social Security, education or child care, the Tristate has a lot riding on the agenda President Clinton laid out in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

        Tristate residents who are directly involved in the issues Mr. Clinton touched on in his address gave the president's ideas mixed reviews.

        Perhaps the most sweeping plan laid out by the president was his call to spend $2.7 trillion in expected federal budget surpluses over the next 15 years to bolster the Social Security system, which he says would guarantee benefits for the baby-boom generation.

        The plan is certain to draw fire from Republicans in Congress who want to use most of the expected budget surpluses to fund tax cuts.

        But Dan Radford, executive director of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, said he thinks the president can sell the idea to the American people of long-term solvency of Social Security instead of short-term tax cuts.

        “Saving Social Security is the No. 1 issue to working people,” Mr. Radford said. “Working people would like tax cuts, too; but I think most people are more interested in securing their future.”

        In addition to using about 62 percent of the surplus to boost Social Security's cash reserves, the Clinton plan would use another 11 percent for government-subsidized retirement savings accounts.

        Another portion would go toward Medicare, pushing back the date when that program is projected to run short of money from 2008 to 2020.

        Don Jackson, the Cincinnati chairman of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan watchdog group on federal spending issues, said the idea of creating retirement savings accounts “is generally a pretty good idea.”

        Mr. Jackson said he would prefer seeing all the surplus going to Social Security's cash reserves.

        “Concord Coalition's position has been that we should take 100 percent of it and move to it Social Security or to retire the national debt,” Mr. Jackson said. “In effect, giving it to Social Security is a way of reducing the debt.”

        Aside from Social Security, some of Mr. Clinton's boldest proposals came in the area of education. He proposed rewarding school districts that evaluate the performance of new teachers, end “social promotion” of unqualified students and inform parents of school performance.

        Some local education officials said the president's proposals may go too far.

        “Everything he is proposing is good, sound policy, and it ought to be done,” said Tom Mooney, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. “The question is whether or not it is better done by the states, rather than the federal government.”

        Art Hull, a member of the Cincinnati Board of Education, said he did not like the sound of Mr. Clinton's proposals, saying they appeared to be “an invasion” on local control of schools.

        “The more intervention there is from the state and federal governments, the more difficult it becomes for local school districts to do business,” Mr. Hull said.

        Many of President Clinton's proposals will meet resistance from congressional Republicans, but his proposal for a tax credit for parents who stay at home to care for infant children might get a better reception.

        Sallie Westheimer, executive director of Comprehensive Community Child Care, a nonprofit agency, said the tax credit for stay-at-home parents “is fine, anything that can help people make good choices is worth doing.”

        But Ms. Westheimer said the size of the tax credit proposed — $250 for each child under age 1 — “is probably not enough to really make a difference for most people.”


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Text of State of the Union address
State of the Union address (Take 2)
State of the Union address (Take 3)
State of the Union address (Take 4)
State of the Union address (Take 5)
State of the Union address (Take 6)
State of the Union address (Take 7)
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