President Obama, delivering an earlier State of the Union adresss

SOTU: Keep an ear cocked for more highway spending

Jan. 20, 2015

Given the White House’s intentional and widespread previewing of its content, it’s unlikely there will be any surprises when President Obama delivers his sixth State of the Union (SOTU) address before Congress this evening.

And given that Republicans now enjoy an historic majority in the House and control the Senate as well, there is little doubt that any of the major policy proposals the President outlines in his address will ever become law.

The initiatives that were disclosed in advance are expected to land on Capitol Hill with a deafening thud. The key ones aim to expand paid family leave for new parents, make community college tuition-free for many students and, above all, raise taxes on the wealthy in order to cut them for middle-income families and pay for some of his initiatives, as The New York Times put it today.

But based on his prior SOTU performance, it’s a fair bet the President will once again make a strong pitch for greater investment in the repair and expansion of the nation’s highway infrastructure.

A lot may have changed in Washington since Obama entered the White House, but fixing roads and bridges is an issue that remains resolutely non-partisan.

That’s why, out of everything the President may propose tonight, infrastructure initiatives are the most likely to be acted upon by the new Congress.

Indeed, Politico transportation reporter Heather Caygle observed in a blog post this morning that “there’s a robust group of lawmakers and transportation lobbyists who are hoping he [The President] devotes at least some of his speech to infrastructure. And the chances of that are pretty high— Obama frequently mentions infrastructure as an area of common ground between Democrats and Republicans and members of both parties, including the president, have endorsed using revenue from a corporate tax overhaul to boost the Highway Trust Fund.”

Caygle also observed that President Obama is not likely to push for fuel-tax hike, noting that “…while many infrastructure advocates would love the White House to support a raising the gas tax, the idea just doesn't fit with that whole ‘helping the middle class’ theme [running through this SOTU speech].”

There is also the possibility the President will make an emotional appeal in pushing for more to be spent on highways and bridges by invoking the tragic collapse last night of a highway overpass that was being prepped for demolition on I-75 South in Ohio.

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