U.S. President Barack Obama released the first budget of his second term Wednesday, outlining a plan to reduce the deficit while rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.
Obama said in the budget message of the president that the nation was on the right track in dramatically reducing the size of the deficit.
“Over the last four years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way by more than $2.5 trillion,” he said. “This is more than half way towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction.”
Further deficit reductions must occur, Obama admitted, but stressed they should not threaten funding to important social programs or negatively impacting the middle class. Obama did include some cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare in his budget, including a new formula that would decrease future social security benefits.
“We should not do it by making harsh and arbitrary cuts that jeopardize our military readiness, devastate priorities like education and energy, and cost jobs,” he said. “We should not ask middle-class senior citizens and working families to pay down the rest of our deficit.”
Reducing unemployment through job growth while simultaneously improving the American infrastructure was a recurring promise throughout the budget. Obama introduced $50 billion for immediate infrastructure improvements in his budgets, which he said would go to projects such as repairing the more than 70,000 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S.
Education was also a priority for Obama. He outlined a plan to provide free universal public pre-school education to four-year-olds, paid for by increasing the cigarette tax from $1.01 to $1.95 per pack.
“It will give all our kids the best start in life, helping them perform better in elementary school and ultimately helping them, and the country, be better prepared for the demands of the global economy,” he said. “This is an investment we need to make, and it is fully paid for in this budget by imposing a new tax on every pack of cigarettes sold.”
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, released a statement following the budget presentation, voicing his issues with the budget.
“He does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget,” Boehner said in a statement Wednesday. “But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes.”
Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said there are serious structural flaws within the budget.
“This budget relies on significant tax increases during a time when working families are already struggling to get by,” he said.
Buckley said Republican leaders are unwilling to support this budget.
“The republicans in the House have pledged that they will resist this budget as it continues to grow the size of big government while median income levels in Massachusetts continue to exponentially decrease,” he said.
Obama said he had done his best to meet the Republican Party half way with this year’s budget.
“It is not a Democratic plan or a Republican plan,” Obama said. “It is an American plan. And it is a plan that I hope can serve as an outline for us to write the next great chapter of the American story … together.”