U.S. PIRG Response to 2018 State of the Union Address

Media Contacts
Jeff Robinson

President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address touched on a lot of topics crucial to the American way of life. Unfortunately, he omitted many of the most important topics facing our country today: consumer protection, threats to food safety — from pesticides to antibiotics — and threats to our democracy, both internal and external. And on the important issues he did discuss, such as infrastructure and the economy, he offered 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.



There is widespread bipartisan agreement that our nation needs major investment in repairing and updating our infrastructure — for clean water, clean energy, and 21st century transportation. But while the president’s mention that “it’s time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure” was welcome, his focus on deregulation over due diligence was frightening.

Our most important infrastructure needs are to rebuild the pipes and roads we already have, as opposed to building new infrastructure.  We need an eye toward the future, with a minimum of adverse environmental side effects. Generally, in terms of infrastructure, what President Trump mentioned is just not the right stuff.

“Building new highways has been proven ineffective at decreasing congestion, pollution and traffic, and instead adds strain to already-limited budgets, while hurting public health and the environment,”said Jeff Robinson, U.S. PIRG’s Sr. Director of Transportation. “Priority funding should be reserved for transportation projects that reduce growth in vehicle-miles traveled, to account for the public health, environmental and climate benefits as well as the reduced need to increase road capacity in the future.”

“We need to invest in a transportation system that enhances the quality of life in our cities and towns, improves the quality of our air and water, ensures sustainability of our communities in an era of growing concern about climate change, and meets the needs of the modern economy. That means prioritizing repair of our existing roads and bridges over new highway construction, updating and expanding our transit systems, including funding the complete implementation of positive train control on all commuter rails by the end of 2018, and making roads safer and more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists. That’s the path towards a 21st century transportation plan. That’s the path we should be taking. We need to focus on building the right stuff, not just more stuff,” Robinson said.


Tax & Budget

President Trump said that his administration’s work on tax reform was an unmitigated success — but failed to address crippling additions to the deficit. By potentially adding upwards for $2 trillion to our national debt over ten years, and offering far too few actual reforms, the Trump administration has shifted the burden of its tax plan onto future generations, ignoring the hard questions in favor of easy optics.

“The short-term benefits of the tax plan ring hollow when compared to the long-term costs for the sustainability of our economy. The tax plan raised the debt and deficit and failed to meaningfully reform our corporate tax system to prevent gaming — leaving the serious financial and structural problems of our tax system for another generation to take on,” said U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Director Michelle Surka.

We recommend that states take the momentum of the tax discussion and run with it locally — pushing to close loopholes at the state level and start to lay the foundation for what tax reform might look like in years to come.