February 24, 2010 in Nation/World

Senate approves tax breaks for new hires

Associated Press
How they voted
Idaho: Senators Crapo and Risch voted no.
Washington: Senators Cantwell and Murray voted yes.

Tale of 2 jobs bills
The jobs bill passed by the Senate Wednesday is significantly smaller than one passed by the House in December. Key features of the two bills:

Senate bill

• Total cost: $35 billion.
• $13 billion for a tax credit for companies that hire unemployed workers. The provision exempts employers from paying the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax this year on newly hired workers that have been unemployed for 60 days or more, and provides an additional $1,000 tax credit for workers retained for at least a year.
• $20 billion to reauthorize through the end of 2010 the federal highway trust fund, which uses gasoline taxes to help state and local governments pay for highway and transit projects.
• $35 million tax break for businesses, permitting them to write off equipment as a business expense rather than depreciating them over time.
• $2.3 million to expand the Build America Bonds program to subsidize the interest costs of bonds to include certain school and energy projects.

House bill

• Total cost: $174 billion.
• $36 billion for highways and mass transit.
• $20 billion to reauthorize through the end of 2010 the highway trust fund.
• $23 billion to pay teacher salaries in an attempt to save or create 250,000 jobs.
• $2 billion for job training, summer jobs for teenagers and for AmeriCorps.
• $500 million to retain or hire firefighters.
• $1.2 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officials on the beat.
• $2.3 billion to extend the $1,000-per-child tax credit to 16 million poor families.
• $24 billion to states for Medicaid for the poor and disabled.
• $41 billion to extend emergency unemployment benefits for six months.
• $12.3 billion for health insurance subsidies for long-term jobless workers.
• $600 million for improvements to airports and seaports.
• $2.8 billion for water projects.
• $2 billion for housing renovations.

WASHINGTON — Companies that hire the unemployed would claim new tax breaks under a jobs-promoting bill the Senate passed Wednesday, delivering President Barack Obama and Democrats a much-needed victory.

The 70-28 vote sends the bill back to the House, which passed a far more costly measure in December. Many in the House consider the Senate bill too puny, but they may simply adopt it and send it to Obama in order to get a win. Democratic leaders promise more so-called jobs bills are on the way.

The bill contain two major provisions. First, it would exempt businesses hiring the unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give them an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year.

Second, it would extend highway and mass transit programs through the end of the year and pump $20 billion into them in time for the spring construction season. The money would make up for lower-than-expected gasoline tax revenues.

The Senate’s $35 billion proposal is a far smaller measure than the $862 billion economic stimulus bill enacted a year ago.

The measure cleared a key hurdle Monday when the Senate’s newest member, Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and four other Republicans broke party ranks to defeat a filibuster. Republican leaders said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had used strong-arm tactics to bring the measure to the floor.

In all, 13 Republicans voted for the measure Wednesday. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the only Democrat in opposition.

Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, blasted the measure for increasing the budget deficit to fund highway and transit programs. He said the measure made a joke of Democratic promises to adhere to “pay-as-you-go” budget rules requiring new spending programs to not increase the deficit.

“I don’t think you get people back to work in this nation by loading more and more debt onto the next generation,” Gregg said.

The new hiring tax credit could spur about 250,000 new jobs, according to economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com. The economy has shed 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December, 2007.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a sponsor of the hiring tax break, said it would have an immediate impact since businesses won’t have to apply for it when doing their taxes a year from now.

“It immediately takes effect,” Schumer said. “It goes right to small businesses.”

In addition to the hiring tax incentives and highway funding, the bill would extend a tax break for small businesses buying new equipment and modestly expand an initiative that helps state and local governments pay for infrastructure projects.

Republicans and some Democrats were unhappy that Reid brought the jobs bill to the floor after abruptly dumping about $70 billion worth of tax breaks for businesses and individuals, help for the unemployed and additional Medicare payments to doctors that had been introduced by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman and senior Republican on the Finance Committee.

Most, if not all, of those ideas are expected to return in subsequent legislation.

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