With President Barrack Obama laying out his agenda in the last two years of his second term during his State of the Union Address yesterday in Congress, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) hopes the Republican Party-dominated House of Representatives and Senate would be a willing partner for the President’s ambitious plans.
“I thought the President presented good ideas for legislative action over the next two years, many of which could help us in the Northern Mariana Islands. And I hope that the new Republican leadership in Congress will prove willing to work with the President,” said Sablan in an email to Saipan Tribune.
In general, the four-term congressman from the CNMI said the President was able to give a very strong speech because the U.S. as a whole is doing well after six years of his leadership.
“Unemployment is down. Economic growth is up. Graduation rates have improved. The country is less dependent on foreign oil. We have cut our carbon emissions. Of course, there are individuals in our country who are still hurting and areas of our country where more needs to improve. But even in the Northern Marianas our economy is growing. Tourism is up. We are sending more students to college. And we are beginning to see businesses and homeowners shifting away from imported oil to renewable energy sources,” said Sablan.
But what really caught Sablan’s attention during Obama’s State of the Union Address was his proposal to make the nation’s community colleges essentially free.
“In particular I want to see Congress moving forward on the President’s education agenda: helping more students attend and succeed in community colleges, making sure that those students are getting the training they need to fill jobs in the economy, putting more resources into early education. As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I expect to be involved in the debate on those proposals,” he said.
Sablan, however, cautioned that such plans won’t happen overnight, adding that he has also made sure that territories like the CNMI would be included in such noble plans.
“The challenge always is to make sure that the Northern Mariana Islands, along with the other non-state areas, are not left out or short-changed. The devil is in the details. That is why I reached out to the White House, as soon as the President announced his community college initiative 10 days ago, to get confirmation that he intended it to apply not just to States, but to the Northern Mariana Islands as well. And it does.”
He also said that much of the Obama’s “opportunity” agenda, however, depends on changes in the tax code.
“As you know, the Northern Marianas tax system is based on the U.S. tax code. So I have to be very careful before I endorse any specific changes. I have to consult with the governor and with the Northern Marianas Legislature. Because, for instance, new tax credits—such as those the President proposed—could reduce the Commonwealth’s tax revenues and that hurts the Commonwealth government funding of education and health and other high priorities,” he said.