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From assault weapons to welfare reform, Clinton outlines plans.

President Bill Clinton asked the American people to make a new covenant with the nation in his second State of the Union address last week. The President, speaking past the assembled Supreme Court Justices and members of the House and Senate, asked citizens to assume more responsibility not just for their own lives, but also for their communities:

"As we enter a new era, we need a new set of understandings, not just with government, but, even more important, with one another as Americans."

In a long speech often interrupted by applause, the President called for a renewal of government, legislation to streamline and improve the economy, support for working families and the middle class and a bipartisan effort on welfare reform.

He also pledged to fight to preserve the ban on assault weapons that passed the last Congress, a measure for which local government and law enforcement officials fought with zeal.

A key concern for local governments is that deep cuts in priority municipal programs will pay for middle income tax cuts the President promised. Also important for states and localities, is Clinton's continuing support of efforts to halt unfunded mandates. He said he looks forward to signing the pending mandate relief legislation into law.

The President specifically proposed initiatives to increase the minimum wage, to set up a national verification system for employers to check the immigration status of workers, to launch a national campaign to combat teenage pregnancy, and to provide free television time to political candidates.

The Most Unkind Cuts

Are Aimed At Housing

As Part of his continuing effort to reinvent government, the President said he would propose budget cuts of $130 billion in the budget proposal he sends to Congress this week as part of his effort to "get rid of yesterday's government so our people can meet today's and tomorrow's needs." The cuts will be used first to pay for his proposed middle income tax cuts, with the remainder dedicated to deficit reduction. The White House expects to propose some of its deepest cuts in housing and community development and surface transportation programs.

In testimony after the President's speech, HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros told Congress he would propose cuts in housing and community development programs of $51 billion over the next five years, partially through consolidating HUD programs into three block grant programs and laying off thousands of employees, and partially through steep cuts in low income and pubhc housing programs in cities.

Clinton proposed no new investment initiatives for the future.

The President vowed to increase defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, and veterans' benefits, exempting the federal government's largest spending, non-needs tested entitlement programs from any budget scrutiny, but inereasing the pressure to make deeper cuts in programs affecting low income families and states and local governments. Moreover, he dared Congressional Republicans to cut Medicare entitlement spending to pay for their tax cuts, noting he would "oppose any attempts to pay for tax cuts with Medicare cuts."

Public Safety

The President made clear he would strongly oppose any efforts to overtum victories he achieved in the last Congress, especially citing the ban on assault weapons and his national service program:

"A lot of people laid down their seats in Congress so police officers and kids wouldn't have to lay down their lives in our streets under a hail of assault-weapons bullets. I will not see that ban repealed."

Clinton told Congress that his new covenant extended beyond citizens and their responsibilities to their own communities to the private sector. He said corporations have an obligation to keep jobs in cities and towns and to give employees a fair share of the profits they generate.


The President renewed his call for cracking down on illegal immigration. He said he wants to invest more in expanded enforcement of illegal immigration, as well as expanded border controls.

He advocated immigration verification, including a national computerized registry to curb employment of illegal immigrants. But Clinton warned against actions that would harm legal immigrants.

Welfare Reform

Clinton cited welfare reform as a prime example of a program where bipartisan efforts could succeed. He said it was time to stop using the issue to divide the country. He said that while he agreed, and had proposed, that bad behavior be punished.

Clinton had invited NLC First Vice President Greg Lashutka to a White House Summit on welfare reform with bipartisan Congressional and state leaders at the White House last Saturday to attempt to reach agreement on such a reforin.

Minimum Wage

The President noted that families working at minimum wage take a year to earn as much as a member of the new Congress had earned by the end of last week.

GOP Response

New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman responded for Republicans, laying out the GOP "agenda of change." She said the Republican agenda includes welfare reform, a balanced budget, lower taxes, and crime control as top priorities.

"We're committed to reforming welfare, and we want to force the government to live within its means by stopping runaway spending and balancing the budget.

In addressing the issue of intergovernmental relations, Whitman said: "Time after time, Republicans and Democrats have found that things work better when states and communities set their own priorities, rather than being bossed around by bureaucrats in Washington."
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 30, 1995
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