Obama sending $447 billion jobs bill to Congress
Posted September 11, 2011
Updated September 13, 2011
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sent Congress his new $447 billion jobs bill on Monday and urged lawmakers to quickly pass it.
Obama will also travel across the country to build public support for the package he unveiled last week. He'll visit the pivotal campaign state of Ohio on Tuesday before heading to the Triangle on Wednesday to ask voters to pressure lawmakers to pass the bill.
The White House said the president plans to visit WestStar Precision, an Apex firm that provides industrial and commercial machining services, before speaking at Reynolds Coliseum on the North Carolina State University campus.
The N.C. State speech is free and open to the public. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at Carter-Finley Stadium. starting at noon Tuesday. Tickets are limited to two per person.
N.C. State students can get tickets – limit of one per person – at the Brickyard on campus, starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The centerpiece of Obama's bill is lower payroll taxes for individuals and businesses. There's also new spending to hire teachers and rebuild schools, among other things.
The Democratic National Committee is launching a television ad campaign to boost support for Obama's new jobs plan. The 30-second ads, which show portions of Obama's speech to Congress last week, will air beginning Monday in politically important states from Nevada to New Hampshire. The ads urge viewers to "Read it. Fight for it. ... Pass the President's Jobs Plan."
Last December, Congress passed a one-year cut in Social Security taxes, reducing the rate for workers from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011. Employers still pay the 6.2 percent rate, which is applied to wages up to $106,800.
Obama proposes to extend the tax cut for a year and make it bigger, reducing the Social Security taxes paid by workers to 3.1 percent for 2012. He's also now proposing to extend the payroll tax cut to businesses on the first $5 million of their payroll. About 98 percent of companies have payrolls below the $5 million threshold, according to the White House.
Extending and enlarging the payroll tax cuts costs $240 billion.
Obama urged lawmakers to "pass this jobs plan right away." But he left the responsibility for paying for the $447 billion plan to a special bipartisan House-Senate panel created to reducing deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the coming decade. The panel's top Republican wasn't happy about it.
The jobs plan also calls for $130 billion in aid to state and local governments, providing either a welcome infusion of cash for those struggling with budget gaps, government layoffs and crumbling roads or merely a temporary patch for budget holes that are likely to remain long after the federal money runs out.
The perspective of governors and state lawmakers varies but often follows political affiliation, with Democrats generally praising Obama's plan and Republicans remaining skeptical.
"It's a no-brainer: Congress should pass the bill. Now," said California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, whose state would receive some $13 billion for construction projects and teaching and public safety jobs at a time when it has the nation's second highest unemployment rate.
Many Republican lawmakers and governors are less enthusiastic about accepting the federal money, especially if it locks in costs.
"If we're given the flexibility to spend it as we see fit and not as they see fit, I could see some benefit," particularly for long-delayed infrastructure projects, said Missouri House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican. "I'm not a big fan of using one-time money for ongoing expenses. I think that's what the state should be getting away from, not getting deeper into."
Obama's plan has to clear a politically divided Congress, which could scuttle it entirely or enact bits and pieces of it. As envisioned by Obama, state and local governments would receive $50 billion for transportation projects, $35 billion for school, police and fire department payrolls, $30 billion to modernize public schools and community colleges, and $15 billion to refurbish vacant and foreclosed homes or businesses.
It would mark the second, sizable infusion of federal cash to states in less than three years, coming just as they are burning through the last of the billions of dollars they received under the 2009 stimulus act.
In many cases, states used the original stimulus money to fill in for declining tax revenue and lessen or delay spending cuts for public schools, health care programs and other services. But those budget holes remain in many states as high unemployment persists and government tax revenue remains lackluster.
With another round of money, "the federal government may be able to play a critical role in helping states close their budget gaps," said David Adkins, executive director of the Council of State Governments.
But he said the prospects for receiving the money appear "very, very slim" given the focus on reducing government spending among Republicans in Congress. He said state government leaders are more interested in long-term stable federal funding for transportation projects and education programs.