Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog

  • White House engages NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC)

     

    On Sunday, I had to the opportunity to have a discussion with the National Association of Counties (NACo) Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) to talk about the President’s State of the Union address and the issues facing urban counties across the country.

    During the discussion we talked about the President’s commitment to providing “ladders of opportunity” to Americans aspiring to move into the middle class to make sure that hard work leads to a decent living through increasing the minimum wage, providing high-quality preschool for every child, and partnering with communities to help put people back to work.

    As part of President’s proposal, county officials discussed how they could play a role in the  Administration’s “Promise Zone” initiative, which seeks to align multi-faceted federal investment with private investment, to help bring about lasting and replicable transformation to communities racked with systemic poverty.

    Also on the agenda was a discussion on how counties will be impacted by the sequester from reduced federal funding for job training programs, cuts in funding for programs that provide meals for seniors, and fewer vaccines for children. County officials across the county know that the only way to responsibly reduce the deficit and protect the middle class is through a balanced approach, much like they champion in their communities every day.

    In addition , county officials also had the opportunity to hear from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder on how the Obama Administration continues to strengthen its relationship with the nation’s counties.

    Read more about the Administration’s strong partnership with county officials

    Jay Williams is the Deputy Director in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

  • Working with States to Cut Red Tape and Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

    The President believes we must put Americans back to work and build the infrastructure we need to succeed in a global economy. Part of his plan to make this happen is to cut permitting timelines for major infrastructure projects in half and create incentives for better outcomes for communities and the environment.

    Today, the Administration is launching five pilot Regional Teams to strengthen collaboration, cut red tape, and reduce permitting timelines. Each team will facilitate Federal field office coordination on regional infrastructure priorities including passenger rail, renewable energy, electricity transmission, oil and gas production, and drought mitigation.  In the Pacific Northwest, we’re going to partner with states to move faster on renewable energy, transmission and other infrastructure projects. We’re going to help the Northeast Corridor move faster on high-speed rail service. In the central U.S., we’ll work on projects that will help local communities deal with worsening drought.  We’re going to help states like North Dakota and Montana move faster on oil and gas production.  And we’ll develop a cross-discipline team to facilitate the development of electrical transmission in the West. These teams will also serve as a laboratory for further innovations. 

    State, local, and tribal governments are critical partners in the effort to address our Nation’s infrastructure needs and reach these goals. Close collaboration with states is especially important because major infrastructure projects like bridges, rail lines, and waterways often involve both Federal and state agency permits. That’s why working together from the beginning of the permitting process can shave months or even years off project timelines, as well as deliver a project that will have better results for local communities and the environment.

    For example, the Department of Transportation took months off the timeline to approve the Whittier Bridge Replacement project in Massachusetts by working with the state government and doing concurrent project reviews. More than 70,000 cars cross the bridge every day, and this project –scheduled to start construction in spring of this year – will bring it up to current safety standards and increase its capacity.

    In another example, the Department of the Interior worked with the State of California to create a Renewable Energy Policy Group to align Federal and state permitting and review processes to expedite solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects in California. To date, thanks to these efforts, approximately 15 gigawatts of renewable energy projects – enough to power millions of homes – have been approved in California, including more than 5 gigawatts on public lands.

    And those are just two examples of how we are reducing projected timelines for more than 40 major infrastructure projects around the country by several months to several years, as you can see here on our permitting dashboard.

    We have made tremendous strides in working together with our state partners to cut project timelines and make permitting for critical infrastructure project more efficient and timely. Now is the time to be building on this progress, not taking a step back. But a step back is exactly what we face if Congress does not act in the coming days to avoid the across-the-board cuts – known as sequestration – scheduled to take effect this Friday. As just one example, permitting by the Department of the Interior would slow down, creating delays for the development of oil and gas on Federal lands. Congress must act quickly to pass a balanced plan to reduce our long-term deficits and invests in what we do need – like better infrastructure.

    David Agnew is Director for Intergovernmental Affairs and Danny Werfel is Controller of the Office of Management and Budget

  • President Obama to Governors: I Look Forward to Working with You to Reignite America's Economic Engine

     

    President Barack Obama has a meeting with the National Governors Association in the White House, Feb. 25, 2013

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and participates in a Q&A during a meeting with the National Governors Association (NGA) in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 25, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In a meeting with the National Governors Association today at the White House, President Obama stressed the need for bipartisan cooperation, and pressed the leaders in attendance to work together with their partners in Washington to put the focus back on the next generation, rather than the next election.

    All of us are elected officials. All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party’s as well as the other party’s. But at some point, we've got to do some governing. And certainly what we can't do is keep careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. As I said in the State of the Union, the American people have worked hard and long to dig themselves out of one crisis; they don't need us creating another one. And unfortunately, that's what we've been seeing too much out there.

    The American people are out there every single day, meeting their responsibilities, giving it their all to provide for their families and their communities.  A lot of you are doing the same things in your respective states. Well, we need that same kind of attitude here in Washington. At the very least, the American people have a right to expect that from their representatives.  

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Challenges Governors to Ease Service Members' Transition to Civilian Work Force

     

    Too often the talented men and women who have served our country face barriers that make it difficult to find jobs that capitalize on the skills they have gained through their military education and experience. Many service members and veterans are required to repeat education or training in order to receive industry certifications and state occupational licenses, even though much, and in some cases, all, of their military training and experience overlaps with credential requirements.

    The members of our Armed Forces and their families make great sacrifices, and when their service is concluded, we owe it to our veterans and their families to help them accomplish a successful transition to the civilian labor force. That is why over the past year and a half, President Obama has taken significant action to create a “career-ready military” and streamline the transition process.

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden highlighted the work that has been done across the country to change laws that require military spouses to attain new credentials when they move to a new state, and challenged the governors of all 50 states to take legislative or executive action to help our troops get the credentials they need by the end of 2015. Speaking to the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Mrs. Obama talked about the pressing need to take action and fulfill our responsibilities to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much over the past decade:

    In the coming years, more than one million service members will make the transition to civilian life. 

    Think about that – a million people hanging up their uniforms… figuring out what’s next… and doing everything they can to make that change as seamless as possible for their families.

    So the fact is, while this time of war may be ending, our responsibilities to our troops and their families will only be ramping up.

    And that’s what I want to talk to you about today—how we can fulfill what is perhaps our most pressing responsibility to our troops: making sure that when they come home, they can find a job—and not just any job, but a good job, a job they can raise a family on.

  • Ask Your State of the Union Questions on Twitter

     

    Have questions about the President’s State of the Union Address? White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs will be answering questions from state, local and tribal officials on Twitter on Friday, February 15 at 2:30 pm. Submit your questions to @DavidAgnew44 now and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #IGASOTU.

    What: Twitter Q & A session with Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew

    When: Friday, February 15 at 2:30 pm

    Where: Following the Q&A on Twitter and submit your questions now to @DavidAgnew44 using the hashtag #IGASOTU

    Find out more about the State of the Union at whitehouse.gov/sotu.

     

  • State and Local Officials Share Reactions to State of the Union Address

    Following President Obama’s State of the Union Address, state and local officials shared their reactions to the President’s plan for a strong middle class and a strong America.

    Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:

    “There is no greater priority than getting people back to work and making America a magnet for jobs. That will happen only if Congress joins the President in putting aside partisan politics and working together. The President laid out a strong and positive message designed to cut through the gridlock and bickering. He talked about manufacturing, innovation, clean energy and investing in people. These are investments we can all endorse.”

    Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy:

    “In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama built upon the themes of his Inaugural Address and proposed a plan to accelerate job creation, promote long-term economic growth and grow the middle class. This plan is rooted in our values:  that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should make it in America. His speech was also a powerful call to action against gun violence. The green and white ribbons that have come to signify the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School have now, for some, become a call to action.  We have a responsibility to our children to take common sense steps now to prevent gun violence.”

    Delaware Governor Jack Markell:

    “The world we now live in is more global, more productive, more competitive. It is a new world of unprecedented opportunities to create new partnerships, to sell to new customers, to innovate and collaborate in ways previously unimaginable. The President recognizes that the best way we can compete in an ever-evolving, global economy is by making smart investments in our workforce and creating opportunities to expand the number of available jobs in our country.”