Obama Plan Stresses State Priorities

  • February 27, 2009
  • By Daniel C. Vock and Pauline Vu

After years of battles between states trying to curb greenhouse gas pollution and the federal government blocking them, President Obama wants a nationwide limit on carbon dioxide emissions. Not only would the federal government lead the effort, it's banking on it.
In a budget outline released Thursday (Feb. 26), Obama called for nationwide limits to carbon dioxide pollution by 2012. Under his proposal, polluters would have to buy credits at auction for the right to release the gases. That money would go to the federal treasury to pay for clean energy research, aid to communities and Obama's middle-class tax cut.
“President Obama said in his campaign that energy and environment was one of his priorities, and this clearly shows that,” said Steve Brown, executive director for the Environmental Council on the States, a nationwide group of state environmental regulators.
It's just one of several abrupt shifts in state-related policies Obama proposed. His administration recommended directing more money to pre-kindergarten, constructing more water treatment plants, offering more help to released prisoners and overhauling the financial aid system for college students.

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The president also proposes increasing the amount of financial aid low-income students could receive through the federal Pell Grant program, which currently helps 6.1 million students. He wants to index the awards to inflation and insulate the program from the congressional budget-writing process by making it an entitlement program, which ensures qualified candidates get grants.
“It is a bold effort to align our financial system more closely with what students actually need to succeed in college,” said Lauren Asher, acting president of the Project on Student Debt, an advocacy group pushing for affordable loans.
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