Tonight, the president delivered a strong message to the American people and discussed many of the challenges that are important to our country. I commend President Obama for focusing his address tonight on what matters to Americans — job creation, the exploding debt and the economic recovery.

Wherever I go in Maine, I hear from people who are struggling. They are struggling to pay their bills. They are struggling with the high cost of health care premiums. In some cases, they are working two jobs to make ends meet. In some cases, they can’t find a job at all.

This isn’t a Republican problem. This isn’t a Democratic problem. It’s an American problem, and we must work together in a bipartisan manner to find solutions.

America’s out-of-control debt is a grave threat to our nation’s future prosperity. Just last month, the Senate voted to increase the debt limit to $12.4 trillion, and yet this week we are again considering another increase in the debt limit – this time by $1.9 trillion, to $14.3 trillion. This is simply unsustainable.

I was disappointed when the Senate, this week, rejected a bipartisan amendment that I cosponsored, authored by Senators Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, and Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, that would have created an independent, nonpartisan, 18-member commission to develop a specific plan to correct the government’s long-term fiscal imbalances.

The commission’s legislative recommendations would have required expedited consideration by key congressional committees, a super-majority vote in both chambers of Congress, and presidential approval.

Congress must undertake serious fiscal reform. Given the failure of this legislation, I hope that the version of the commission proposed by the president will succeed.

As a former Maine financial regulator, I am convinced that financial regulatory reform is essential to restoring public confidence in our financial markets and to preventing a recurrence of the financial crisis that has cost so many Americans their retirement savings and so many workers their jobs. I have introduced the Financial System Stabilization and Reform Act that would fundamentally restructure our financial regulatory system. It would strengthen oversight and accountability in our financial markets.

Among other provisions, my legislation would create an independent Financial Stability Council, composed of representatives from existing federal agencies that have responsibility for overseeing portions of the financial system. The FSC would serve as a systemic-risk monitor, maintaining comprehensive oversight of potential risks to the U.S. financial system.

Had there been a systemic-risk monitor in place years ago, many of the causes of our current economic crisis could have been detected and action taken to prevent risk to the stability of the entire financial system. We might have been able to prevent many of the disastrous economic consequences that resulted.

In the year ahead, Congress and the president must focus like a laser on creating jobs during a very difficult time for our economy. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have worked to secure federal funding for projects throughout Maine, including shipbuilding and high-tech companies that contribute to our national security and provide good jobs. I have helped secure nearly $25 million in investment in offshore, deepwater wind energy research at the University of Maine.

I believe that this has a potential to be a real game-changer for the state of Maine and position us now for the green jobs of the future. I urge the president to continue federal investment in this area.

As ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I believe that the president’s proposal to improve countermeasure and vaccine distribution in the event of a bio-weapon attack or a pandemic is a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of providing a comprehensive approach to biosecurity. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act that Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent-Connecticut, and I introduced in September, and that was approved by the Homeland Security Committee in November, would establish a detailed plan for preventing and responding to a biological attack. With the president’s backing, Congress should move swiftly to pass this legislation.

The state of our union is strong, but many challenges lie ahead. I look forward to working with the president on these issues that are so important to the American people. We will have to work together in a bipartisan spirit to achieve progress.

Susan Collins represents the state of Maine in the U.S. Senate.