Sen. Sullivan Weighs In On State of the Union Topics

President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress is Tuesday night, but the White House has been offering previews of his main proposals for weeks. Alaska’s new Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, said before the speech he was expecting to hear an overly rosy depiction of unemployment.

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“The vast majority of that decrease in unemployment has been Americans dropping out of the work force,” Sullivan said. “The labor rate participation is at the lowest rate in 30 years, so to me that’s not progress.”

Labor participation, or the percentage of adults with jobs or looking for jobs, peaked in 2000. Economists say only some of the decline can be explained by baby boomers retiring and similar demographics.

Obama is also proposing to increase the tax rate the wealthy pay on capital gains. For all Americans, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than earned income. Sullivan says a capital gains tax increase is not good policy.

“You know, when you raise the capital gains tax, you’re inhibiting investment, and I don’t think that’s what the country needs right now,” he said.

Democrats who support the tax increase say it would affect very few taxpayers, since most report no capital gains and fewer still have incomes higher than $465,000 a year, the threshold for triggering the increase.

Sullivan says he’s waiting to see the details on Obama’s proposal for free tuition at community colleges. He’s skeptical of the plan, although he says college education is important.

“The most important thing we can do for college students right now is make sure they have good jobs, good opportunities,” he said.

Sullivan says he’s concerned that free college tuition for all will saddle young people with greater national debt.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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