State of the Union: President Addresses Issues from Iraq to Environmental Research in Alabama - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

State of the Union: President Addresses Issues from Iraq to Environmental Research in Alabama

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President Bush used his sixth State of the Union address to ask Congress to give his Iraq policy "a chance to work." Bush said his plan to increase troop levels is the best hope in a war the U.S. must not lose.

On domestic matters, the president pressed Congress to help find ways to overhaul entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The president also reached out to Democrats. He opened with a tribute to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and shook her hand. He noted that the Congress has changed, but that its responsibilities have not.

HEALTH CARE

In his address, President Bush pitched proposals he says will improve the health care system.

Bush called for changing the tax code to encourage more people not covered by medical insurance to buy a plan, and to discourage others from keeping the most costly health care plans.

Under Bush's proposal, employer-financed health care benefits would be considered taxable income after a deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals. Those buying their own plan would get the same deductions on their taxes.

His second proposal calls for states to get federal funding to help provide coverage for those without insurance. Bush says states providing private coverage should also provide it to "the poor and the sick."

THE ENVIRONMENT

The president's discussions of the environment had ties to Alabama. He encouraged investment in methods to produce ethanol fuel, "using everything from wood chips to grasses."

When he says grasses, he means a field of switch grass at Auburn University. Researchers at the school are honing a technique that converts the grass into fuel.

"I think it's a strong possibility that we'll see commercial operations, maybe even in our state, by the end of this year," said Dr. David Bransby.

Bransby says with the president's remarks, the future of ethanol fuel production and ethanol-powered cars is bright. 

"The reputation we've established is going to increase substantially with support from all sectors, so it means a whole lot for Auburn University," he said.

The president also urged congress to invest in other alternative fuels and reduce gasoline usage in the U.S. by 20% in the next ten years.

The president also mentioned switch grass in last year's state of the union address. Since then, Auburn officials say the private sector has invested millions of dollars in the technology.

DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE

Democrats are calling on President Bush to bring a diplomatic end to the Iraq war. Freshman Senator Jim Webb delivered his party's response to the president's State of the Union address.

Webb is calling for a new direction. He says Bush has abused the public's trust and welfare by taking the country into war "recklessly." He also said the president has mismanaged the war effort and that the U.S. is now caught up in disarray that was "predictable, and predicted."

Webb says there needs to be a shift toward "regionally based diplomacy" that will allow U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

with help from the Associated Press

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