Michigan lawmakers respond to address

MARQUETTE – Federal lawmakers had a varied response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, which called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, a fix to a “broken” system of immigration, equal pay for women and men doing equal work and increased investment in alternative energy, among other things.

Senator Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said in a statement released Tuesday following the speech, “The president tonight made an uplifting call for action to support American families by promoting job growth and raising wages.

“He spoke eloquently of the need for Congress to act quickly to increase the minimum wage. The president was surely right to call for urgent action to restore emergency unemployment benefits; it is shocking that we have not yet restored this lifeline for more than 1.5 million Americans. And he is right that the growing income chasm between the wealthiest Americans and working families is a problem that requires urgent attention,” Levin said. “The president is right to act on these problems where he can, and to call on Congress to act where legislation is required. He is fulfilling his obligations, and now we must fulfill ours.”

Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, had a different take on the speech.

“I valued hearing President Obama’s ideas for the nation this evening, but the president continues to focus on proposals that spend more money we don’t have and increase the size of the federal government. Over the past five years, that approach hasn’t worked for our economy, for our health care system, and for families here in Northern Michigan. Too many people are still unemployed. Some people have to work two jobs and others have given up the job hunt,” Benishek said in a prepared statement. “I spent last week meeting with moms and dads and small business owners in northern Michigan. The ideas they talked about were not bigger government and more Washington spending-they were some common sense policies like improving access to vocational education, reducing costly regulations, and addressing the massive federal debt. Bigger government won’t put more ‘help wanted’ signs in the windows of our job providers. We need to get Washington out of the way, and work together so the economy can start growing again and we can put more people back to work.”

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.