Sen. Mary Landrieu's statement on the State of the Union address

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., tonight released the following statement responding to President Obama's State of the Union address:

"We can all agree that creating jobs and strengthening our economy is priority number one. While our economy has improved significantly over the last year - gaining more than 100,000 jobs in each of the last six months - we are still not nearly where we should be.  To improve our economy, both in Louisiana and nationally, we must restore our coastal ecosystem, focus on producing more domestic energy and give our small businesses the support they need to grow and create jobs.

"I was glad to see the president focus on domestic energy production – it is something we have been focused on in Louisiana for decades and it is one of the reasons that our state unemployment rate is significantly below the national average.  However, the pace of drilling permits for the OCS continues to be far too slow, maintaining uncertainly in an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Louisianans and contributes billions of dollars a year to the U.S. economy. This is not good for our country and it is certainly not good for Louisiana. I have been pushing the administration to improve the speed, efficiency and transparency of drilling permits.  I hope that the president is serious about improving this process so we can put America's energy coast back to work, full steam ahead.

"Another major part of making the Gulf Coast stronger is the bipartisan RESTORE Act, which will dedicate at least 80 percent of BP's Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf states for urgently needed ecological restoration and economic recovery. While I had hoped the president would address the RESTORE Act this evening, he has said previously that a significant portion of the BP fines should go directly to the coast - I hope he will focus on this moving forward. Restoring and rebuilding our coastal wetlands is not just a local issue; it is crucial to protecting commerce that flows through the Mississippi River, benefiting our entire nation. I will continue to work with the administration and the many bipartisan supporters of the RESTORE Act to see this legislation signed into law.

"I was happy to hear the president address ways to help spur innovation and entrepreneurship and assist small firms as they continue to grow and create jobs. We know that America is very good at creating new businesses, but we must work to be even better. As chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, I am constantly working to make the ecosystem for entrepreneurship even stronger in America and to support our small, start-up, fast growing businesses.  I look forward to working with the president's Startup America initiative to help spur growth and job creation in our country.

"I am confident that we can achieve all of these goals, keep our fiscal house in order and address the growing wealth gap in our nation. I believe strongly that we must reduce wasteful government spending, but I also support asking those who make over $1 million a year to contribute a little more in taxes. This is only fair and it is the right thing to do. Asking a bit more from those who make over $1 million a year will help release the squeeze on the middle class, strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit, and allow our country to make the investments we need for a successful future."