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Dec 19 2011

“A Bipartisan Plan to Create Jobs and Opportunity”

Weekly Column By Senator Susan Collins

Mainers, like so many Americans, are frustrated that our nation’s unemployment rate remains unacceptably high. They are frustrated that people who want to work can’t find good jobs.
And people are frustrated that Washington can’t seem to set aside partisan bickering long enough to agree on a realistic path forward to spur job creation and boost our economy.

Frustration could soon result in more harm if Washington doesn’t stop the bickering and come together to extend the payroll tax cut. The 2-percent cut for employees that took effect early this year will expire at the end of December unless Congress and the President take quick action to extend it. Without the extension, 159 million working Americans will face tax increases of up to $2,000 in the coming year.

Extending the payroll tax cut is one of several measures we can and should adopt immediately to help the American people through these difficult times. Providing the same payroll tax reduction to employers would help them create and preserve jobs. Solutions are within reach if those in Washington will reach across party lines.

That is why I joined with my Democratic colleague, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, to introduce the Bipartisan Jobs Creation Act. That simple, straightforward title says it all – we can restore growth and renew opportunity if we work together.

Senator McCaskill and I recognized that a bridge to economic recovery must be a bipartisan bridge, so we set aside party differences and sat down together to come up with a solution upon which we both could agree. Taking both Democratic and Republican ideas and rethinking the issues, we have offered solutions in four different areas to help create jobs.

First, taxes. In addition to extending the payroll tax cut for workers, we also are proposing that this 2-percent cut be extended to employers on the first $10 million of payroll. This will help small businesses, the economic backbone of our nation’s economy and our job creators.

Second, infrastructure. Our plan would invest funding to rebuild our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and water and sewer systems. This would create good-paying jobs and help ensure that the critical infrastructure needed for long-term economic growth is properly maintained.

Third, sensible regulatory reform. We would require federal agencies to analyze the cost and benefits of proposed regulations, including the indirect impact on job creation, the cost of energy, and consumer prices. This will help cut the tangle of red-tape that is holding businesses back from expanding and adding jobs.

Fourth, job training. We want to consolidate and improve the effectiveness of federal job training programs to focus on what really works and what most directly benefits job seekers.

Besides reducing duplicative job training programs and consolidating most of them within a single agency, we are also proposing an innovative “cluster development” program to support efforts at the state and local levels to identify and build on industry clusters, that is, natural, regional economic strengths.

Senator McCaskill and I also agree that we cannot put America on the path to economic recovery by adding to our $15-trillion national debt. Our bipartisan plan is fully paid for through two provisions. The first is a two-percent surtax on those who make more than a million dollars, but with a crucial exemption to protect small business owner-operators, such as those who file as “subchapter S” corporations and pay their taxes on their individual income tax returns.

Congress should not be imposing higher taxes on working families especially at a time when our nation's economy remains fragile. It is equally important that we not impose additional taxes on job creators who are so critical to our economic recovery.

I have long said that multimillionaires and billionaires who are not running businesses could pay more of their income to help us deal with the $15 trillion federal debt. But I feel strongly that we must ensure that small business owners who pay taxes through the individual income tax system are protected. These are our nation's job creators. The exemption we propose would shield these small businesses from tax increases that could make it more difficult for them to grow and add jobs.

The second provision to generate revenue to pay for our plan is the repeal of unwarranted tax breaks for the five largest oil companies. These unproductive tax breaks amount to billions of dollars each year.

Every weekend when I come home to Maine, people tell me they're tired of the partisan gridlock in Washington. I know that Senator McCaskill hears the same concerns across Missouri. Working together in a bipartisan spirit, I believe we can replace the current frustration with the optimism that is the true American spirit.