Obama proposes program to help veterans, climate

Solar program to offer job skills

President Barack Obama spoke in front of a solar array.
President Barack Obama spoke in front of a solar array.Carolyn Kaster/AP

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — President Obama announced a new initiative Friday to help job-seeking military veterans and the environment at the same time.

The energy and defense departments are expanding to 10 military bases nationwide a pilot program that trains returning service members for jobs in the solar industry.

Obama made the announcement at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, speaking in front of an array of solar panels. Hill is one of the bases that will be participating in the program.

The Energy Department has pledged to train 75,000 people, including veterans, for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry by 2020. That's an increase from a goal of 50,000 workers the department set last May.


''A lot of our men and women in uniform at some point are going to transition into civilian life and we want to make sure that after they've fought for our freedom that they've got jobs to come home to,'' Obama said. He said veterans make good employees because of their experience.

The program announced Friday would make funds from the GI Bill available for the veterans to learn how to install solar panels through the program, called "Solar-Ready Vets."

Utah on Friday became the 49th state to be visited by Obama during his presidency. Only South Dakota remains on his list.

When he gets to South Dakota, Obama will become the fourth president to hit all 50 states while in office, according to the White House Historical Association.

Richard Nixon was first, followed by George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan came four states short of the goal. George W. Bush never made it to Vermont.

Utah was also the latest stop on Obama's recent tour of "red'' states. Since Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in January, Obama has traveled to 10 GOP states: Arizona, Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Utah, all of which voted for Obama rival Mitt Romney in 2012. Obama also has visited nine states that voted for his reelection.


In the 2012 election, Obama garnered less than 25 percent of the vote in Utah against Romney.

Obama met in Salt Lake City with leaders of the Mormon church Thursday night, discussing issues including disaster relief and immigration.

At his Friday event, Obama said the US economy is being buffeted by slowdowns overseas and called for action on proposals to boost spending on infrastructure, education, and energy to help sustain growth.

"We have had the strongest economy but we're impacted by what happens around the world," Obama said, a day after a Labor Department report showed US payrolls increased by 126,000 in March, the smallest monthly gain since December 2013.

US economic security, he said, required rebuilding and repairing the nation's transportation system and by promoting alternative energy sources. The solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, he said.

The initiative on solar energy is the latest in a series of unilateral actions Obama has taken to advance his clean energy agenda. On Tuesday, Obama submitted to the United Nations a plan to slash greenhouse gases by more than a quarter during the next decade.

Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures have fought to block several of Obama's climate initiatives, saying they cost jobs by requiring cuts to carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants.


Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday called Obama's United Nations plan "job killing and likely illegal." He warned other nations against accepting the plan because it had not been approved by Congress.

In the last month, Obama has gone to Alabama to call for more regulations on payday lenders, pitched free community college in South Carolina, and called for student loan relief in Georgia.

In Louisville, Ky., Obama said Republicans were cutting funding for job training while proposing to end the estate tax for wealthy Americans.

Louisville is among about 20 cities that signed on to his TechHire initiative. The program, unveiled last month, is designed to connect workers with higher-paying jobs in the technology field. Obama seeks to emphasize that technology skills provide jobs across the nation, not just in big cities.

"This doesn't cost huge amounts of money but it does cost some money, to do it right and to do it well," Obama said at Indatus, a downtown Louisville software firm.