published Friday, September 16th, 2011

Area Republicans dubious of president’s jobs act

  • photo
    President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Univeristy of Richmond in Richmond, Va., on Friday, to talk about his jobs plan.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House claims President Barack Obama’s new jobs legislation can spur economic growth in the region, but Republican lawmakers are dubious.

The administration says the American Jobs Act would mean an additional $619 million for Tennessee’s ailing roads and bridges, and more than $1 billion for infrastructure projects in Georgia. It also would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize schools in the two states.

To the GOP the proposal sounds similar to the Democratic president’s $878 billion stimulus bill that they ran against in the 2010 midterm elections.

“Unfortunately this is more of the same from the president,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. “His focus again is these largesse government programs.”

The president tried to sweeten the sprawling bill for Republicans by including tax relief.

The White House says the package would provide nearly 300,000 firms in Georgia and Tennessee with a payroll tax cut at a time when many business owners are pinching pennies.

The GOP has branded itself as the party of tax cuts. Still, many Republicans say the president’s proposal is wrongly weighted.

“He’s offering temporary tax cuts and long-term tax increases, which concerns me,” said U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

The bill also would cut workers’ payroll taxes in half next year, saving the average family more than $1,000.

That money is intended for the Social Security Trust Fund. Fleischmann said he’s still on the fence over that proposal.

“As a general rule anytime you can keep more resources in the hands of the people and out of the government it’s a good thing, but we’ve got to study that proposal. Obviously, I’ve made a strong commitment to make sure that Social Security is safe and sound and funded,” he said.

The administration wants to pay for the $477 billion in new spending by increasing taxes on high-income earners and undoing tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Another proposal to pay for the package is to limit itemized tax deductions, but critics say that could have adverse consequences.

“The one thing that’s really troubling is that one of the deductions is for charitable contributions,” said DesJarlais. “This will penalize them and I think charities will suffer. So I see that as a problem.”

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