President Obama today signed into law a $17.5 billion jobs bill that he said will spur hiring and help small business owners.
In signing the bill, called the HIRE Act, the president said that while government can't be the only solution to address lagging employment in the wake of the recession, it can serve to "promote a strong, dynamic private sector" that can drive job creation.
The bill includes $17.5 billion in tax cuts, business credits and subsidies for state and local construction bonds, and moves $20 billion into the highway trust fund for spending on highway and transit programs. It exempts businesses that hire unemployed workers from paying the payroll security tax through December of 2010.
The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday. It had been radically scaled back from a $150 billion package in an effort to ensure passage; Democrats say it is the first step in a series of bills designed to encourage job growth.
Critics say the bill will have little impact on employment. While some estimates say the tax break will result in roughly 250,000 jobs by the end of 2010, the Associated Press notes that is a relatively insignificant figure in light of the fact that 8.4 million jobs have been lost in the recession."Now, make no mistake: while this jobs bill is absolutely necessary, it is by no means enough," Mr. Obama said in signing the bill Thursday. He said there is "a lot more we need to do," pointing to helping small businesses get loans to expand, investing in infrastructure and offering incentives to encourage energy efficiency.
The president said he is "gratified" that "over a dozen Republicans agreed that the need for this jobs bill was urgent, and that they were willing to break out of the partisan morass in Washington to help us take this forward-step for the American people."
He said he hopes "it is a prelude to further cooperation in the days and months to come."
No doubt considering that comment was Rep. Ahn "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana (at far right in the front row of the picture at left), the only Republican lawmaker who backed the health care bill in the House when it first came up for a vote. Cao, who was among the lawmakers who joined the president for the Rose Garden signing ceremony, spoke to Mr. Obama about the health care legislation Wednesday and says he is still considering how he will vote.
Before discussing the jobs bill, Mr. Obama lauded the Congressional Budget Office analysis released this morning showing the reconciled health care bill will cost $940 billion over 10 years.
The bill, he said, would bring "$1.3 trillion in deficit reduction over the next two decades," according to the CBO analysis.
He called it "the most significant effort to reduce deficits since the balanced budget act in the 1990s" and encouraged lawmakers to keep that in mind when they take their "important vote" on the measure "this weekend."
The president laid out four planks of the jobs bill in his Rose Garden remarks. He said:
- The bill mandates that payroll takes will be forgiven for businesses that hire someone who has been unemployed for at least two months;
- It will permit small businesses to write off investments they make in equipment this year;
- It will reform municipal bonds to expand investment in schools and clean energy;
- And it will continue roadway infrastructure investment into the spring and summer, when, the president said, construction jobs pick up.
The bill builds on measures the administration has taken over the past year, Mr. Obama said.
Thanks to those efforts, he said, "our economy is now growing again and we may soon be adding jobs instead of losing them. The jobs bill I'm signing today is intended to help accelerate this process."