WASHINGTON -- Business groups gave mixed reviews to President Obama's State of the Union address.
They praised him for urging Congress to pass legislation overhauling the corporate tax code, making it easier to strike trade deals and reforming the immigration system. But some groups said they were disappointed there wasn't a greater emphasis on reducing federal regulations they say are burdening American companies.
And one of the centerpieces of Obama's speech, his push for a higher minimum wage, is not universally popular among businesses.
For example, Costco is among companies that want to see the $7.25 federal minimum wage raised to $10.10. On Wednesday, Obama again made his case for an increase during a visit to a Costco store in Maryland, part of his emphasis on closing the widening gap between rich and poor.
But some companies and groups strongly oppose an increase.
"We welcome the president’s focus on the economy and jobs, but a minimum wage hike runs counter to that goal," said Mathew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.
"Raising the minimum wage would place a new burden on employers at a time when national policy should be focused on removing barriers to job creation, not creating new regulations or mandates."
Obama pledged Tuesday night to "cut red tape" to help get more natural-gas-powered factories built. But that was his only mention of easing regulations.
Even before Obama delivered the speech, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized his administration's approach to spurring business growth.
“We can’t afford to double down on the failed policies of tax, spend, regulate and mandate," said Thomas J. Donohue, the group's president. "That approach hasn’t worked for the last five years, and it won’t work now."
Like other business leaders, Donohue called for tax reform. But congressional efforts to overhaul the tax code are stalled and unlikely to move forward in a midterm election year.
Business groups strongly support so-called trade promotion authority, which would give the president more power to secure foreign trade deals by putting them on a fast track for congressional approval.
On Tuesday night, Obama pushed Congress to approve legislation granting him the authority.
John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable trade group, said trade promotion authority, immigration reform and an overhaul of the tax code should be the top priorities of Congress this year.
"Progress on these fronts will give an immediate boost to the economy and demonstrate that the president and Congress are serious about spurring investment and creating American jobs," Engler said.
But Obama faces strong resistance on trade promotion authority from his fellow Democrats, who worry about job losses from more foreign trade deals. That opposition would make passage difficult this year.
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