President Obama headed into the deep-red state of Kansas as part of a trip expanding on themes from the State of the Union address. Obama spoke at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he touted his connections to the state and unveiled more details of a proposal to make child care more affordable for many Americans. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports.
People like seven-year-old Sid Mahoney waited in 30 degree weather in a massive line to get through security and into the facility.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m probably never going to do this ever again,” says Sid.
Sid came with his mom Maggie. When Obama spoke, the president had a message aimed at parents like Maggie Mahoney and the possible future parents in the audience.
Obama called for increased funding for child care programs and bigger tax breaks for parents who pay for child care.
He used the example of his grandmother, who worked in a Wichita bomber assembly plant during WWII.
“By that time, my mom had already been born. So this country provided universal child care because they understood that if women are working, they’re going to need some help,” says Obama.
Obama tailored the message to the crowd, which included a lot of students, saying it’s especially difficult for young parents to pay for child care while paying off students loans.
He pointed to the long term benefits early childhood programs offer kids and the economy.
“In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education, these aren’t just nice-to-haves, these are must-haves,” says Obama.
Much of the rest of the speech touched on issues from the State of the Union address, including a push for free community college tuition, an increased minimum wage and equal pay for women. The president says issues like high child care costs reach across party lines, and he called for working together to solve them.
“Whoever we are, Republican, Democrat, male, female, black, white, gay, straight. We all share a common vision for our future. A better country for your generation and your kids' generation,” says Obama.
Obama’s proposal for funding these things, including closing what he calls tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, are already drawing the ire of Republicans. And a plan to tax certain college savings plans has also been getting pushback.
But it wasn’t all serious policy talk. Obama called himself a “Kansas guy” because of his family connections to the state.
“Now, that helped me in the caucus here in 2008. It didn’t help me as much in the general election. Coach Self won 10 straight, I lost two straight here,” says Obama.
In a statement, the Kansas Republican Party criticized the president’s policies and noted that Republicans have made big gains in Kansas in recent years.
Republican Senator Pat Roberts said while it was an honor for KU to host the president, Obama’s policies have hurt some KU students.
Roberts says requirements in Obamacare have led to some student employees getting fewer work hours at university jobs, and that has hurt their ability to pay their bills.