President Obama will give his final State of the Union (SOTU) address this evening. Normally, Presidents use this nationally-televised speech as an opportunity to set the agenda for the coming year and to highlight a wish list of items that will be included in the forthcoming federal budget – which will be released this year on February 9th.
Since 1991, NTU Foundation has tracked the cost of new spending proposals in the SOTU (an archive is available on our website). Last year, Obama’s speech laid out 10 items that would cost $41 billion, plus another five items whose costs were indeterminate.
President Bill Clinton’s final SOTU included a to-do list of 51 spending-related provisions, including several funding expansions that Obama has also included in his annual budget requests such as federal funding for pre-school, expanded child care, and equal pay legislation. President George W. Bush’s final SOTU speech was also his most expensive, calling for a net of $135 billion in new spending, mostly for defense.
However, White House officials have signaled that this year’s SOTU will not include the usual laundry list of items. After all, the President has grown accustomed to go around the Legislative Branch using his Executive pen and bureaucratic authority to implement regulations and policies. But, there are challenges pending through the Judicial Branch that may ultimately block some of these actions.
He will need to work with Congress to get approval of his trade package. Other than the regulatory issues and perhaps the fight against the Islamic State, it is unclear what he may include in his speech. While the economy is improving at a slower pace than in previous recovery periods, this speech would be a great opportunity for the President to reach out on comprehensive tax reform.
Either way, NTU Foundation will follow the speech and have analysis on the specifics available tomorrow.