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Ag secretary lauds Obama’s jobs plan in California

POSTED September 27, 2011 10:03 p.m.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the state this week, lauding the positive impacts President Barack Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would have on Californians.

“The American Jobs Act provides common-sense steps we can take right now to put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans, without adding a dime to the deficit,” Vilsack said to attendees at a business roundtable in Sacramento.

The act, proposed by Obama earlier this month, calls for halving the federal payroll tax for all employers on their first $5 million in wages. The act would result in a tax cut for more than 710,000 California businesses, while a typical California household – earning an income of $56,000 – would receive a tax cut of $1,740.

The unemployment insurance system would be reformed using bipartisan ideas, putting as many as 1 million California laborers back to work, per the administration. Other proposals call for extending unemployment insurance and funding a new job training program for workers in growth industries.

The act would also directly fund 37,500 teaching, police, and firefighting jobs, while creating 51,500 construction jobs by improving highways, modernizing public schools and colleges, refurbishing vacant homes, and constructing new infrastructure.

Some of those construction jobs would come through $4 billion in new high-speed rail funding, an expenditure supported by Thomas J. Umberg, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors.

“High-speed rail has a rightful place in any proposal to put Americans to work,” Umberg said. “California’s project is the largest infrastructure project underway in the nation, and it means literally tens of thousands of jobs in a time when we need them the most – construction and operation jobs that cannot be outsourced. While other states may shrink from this challenge, California is ready to put investments to work immediately, strengthening our economy now and for decades to come."

Funding the $447 billion jobs package remains contentious. Obama’s plan calls for the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, established as part of a last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown, to find additional savings needed to pay for the act while still meeting its deficit reduction target of $1.5 trillion.

"This proposal would make the already-arduous challenge of finding bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction nearly impossible, removing our options for deficit reduction for a plan that won't reduce the deficit by one penny," said U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), one of the co-chairs of the group and Chairman of the House Republican Conference. "It's not the role of this committee to spend more money we don't have on jobs we don't get."

House Republicans have announced their own, competing jobs plan, “The Plan for America’s Job Creators.” The plan would cut back on excessive regulations, cut taxes for businesses and small business owners, allow for the tax-free repatriation of foreign profits, pass free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea, and prevent government spending.

The warring jobs plans have led to a congressional stalemate, with both measures awaiting further action.

“It is inexcusable that Democrats in the Senate have blocked action on almost every one of these measures,” Hensarling said. “House Republicans can’t restore confidence in the economy by ourselves – it’s time for the president and his party to put results before politics. Working together, Washington can seize this opportunity to bring jobs, hope and opportunity back to the American people.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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