Next week, the GOP-led House of Representatives will vote on the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act to help create thousands of new American jobs while helping Americans struggling with the consequences of President Obama’s failed economic policies. The bill extends current payroll tax relief, protects Social Security, reforms and extends unemployment insurance, and extends pro-growth tax relief for businesses of all sizes – while also advancing several bipartisan measures that will directly support the creation of private-sector jobs, including the Keystone XL energy pipeline. Everything in the House bill is offset by spending cuts, rather than through tax increases that would hit small businesses and destroy jobs, as proposed in Senate Democrats’ bill.
Extends Current Payroll Tax Relief, Protects Social Security
The bill provides a one-year extension of the temporary payroll tax relief enacted in 2010 and allows Americans to keep more of their own money, rejecting the Democrats’ plan to increase taxes on job creators. The measure protects the Social Security Trust Fund from being harmed by cutting government spending and directing those savings to replenish the trust fund. Specifically, the measure:
- Extends the current lower payroll tax rate for employees, which was reduced from 6.2 percent of wages to 4.2 percent, for one year.
- Ensures that taxes will stay lower for the nearly 170 million Americans who pay payroll taxes, with the average working family saving $1,000 in 2012.
- Rejects the Democrats’ proposed tax increase on job creators.
Reforms UI Program & Extends Benefits for Americans Struggling in the Obama Economy
The bill permanently reforms the federal unemployment insurance (UI) program and extends benefits to those who are struggling in President Obama’s economy. Recognizing that unemployment services should focus on helping Americans get back to work, the bill uses a two-step process to gradually reduce current maximum weeks of benefits from 99 to 59 weeks, a common-sense level that is in line with past recessions and economic downturns (President Obama’s own plan recognizes that American taxpayers cannot subsidize benefits for an unprecedented, unending period of time by reducing the maximum weeks by 20 next year).
The measure permanently reforms unemployment insurance to reduce waste, cut costs, and increase state flexibility – consistent with the Jobs, Opportunities, Benefits & Services (JOBS) Act approved by the Ways & Means Committee in May. For example:
- The bill requires all state and federal UI recipients to, as a condition of eligibility, search for work, be in a GED program if they have not finished high school (with common-sense exceptions such as for older workers), and participate in reemployment services to help them get back to work.
- The measure increases state flexibility to test and evaluate innovative state-based solutions.
- The bill targets waste, fraud, and abuse by improving the accuracy and administration of UI benefits.
- The measure allows states, if they desire, to perform drug screening and testing as a condition of providing UI benefits in order to improve prospects for future employment.
Job Creation Initiatives
As part of Republicans’ continuing focus on jobs, including the GOP’s Plan for America’s Job Creators, the measure includes several key jobs initiatives:
- The bill accelerates a decision on the Keystone XL energy pipeline, requiring, within 60 days, for the permit to be granted unless the president determines the project is not in the national interest. The measure will create thousands of American jobs and increase America's energy security. Similar legislation passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year.
- The measure extends 100 percent business expensing through 2012 to make it easier for employers, small and large, to invest now in new machinery and equipment, grow their businesses, and create jobs.
- The bill includes Rep. Morgan Griffith’s (R-VA) EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250) to stop the onerous new boiler rule and require the Obama administration to develop a more sensible alternative that balances the need to protect both jobs and the environment. The measure, which would protect more than 200,000 American jobs, was passed by the House on a bipartisan basis on October 13.
- The measure includes spectrum auctions to advance wireless broadband service, bring interoperable broadband communications to public safety officials, spur billions in private investment, and create thousands of jobs – consistent with Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-OR) Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act.
Includes Two-Year “Doc Fix,” Further Defunds ObamaCare
The bill provides a two-year “doc fix” and savings to offset the cost, including further defunding the President’s health care law. A two-year “doc fix” extension is the longest stretch of time in nearly a decade. Bringing this level of stability to physicians will pave the way for a permanent solution. Specifically, the bill:
- Extends certain Medicare payment policies, including a two-year “doc fix” to protect Medicare physicians from large reimbursement cuts scheduled to take place next year.
- Repeals $8 billion in ObamaCare mandatory funding from the unaccountable “prevention and public health fund,” which the House voted to defund earlier this year (saves $8 billion).
- Forces greater repayment of improper taxpayer-funded subsidies in ObamaCare to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the Democrats’ health care law (reduces deficit by $13.4 billion).
- Updates certain provider payment methodologies to reduce wasteful spending (saves $21.5 billion).
Reforms & Extends Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which replaced the prior open-ended welfare entitlement with a fixed federal block grant as part of the 1996 welfare reform law, expires December 31, 2011. The bill extends the $16.5 billion TANF block grant at its current funding levels through FY 2012, and makes two reforms to (1) improve program administration by standardizing data elements to improve integrity and collaboration; and (2) close the current “strip club loophole” to ensure that welfare funds cannot be accessed in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos by blocking welfare electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards from working in ATMs there.
Spending Cuts – Not Tax Hikes on Job Creators – to Offset Payroll/UI Extension
The bill includes spending cuts in government programs – not tax increases on job creators – to fully pay for extending current payroll tax relief and unemployment insurance benefits. This includes extending the current pay freeze for federal workers, including Members of Congress, eliminating government benefits for millionaires & billionaires, targeting fraud and abuse, and reforming entitlement programs – many ideas for which President Obama has already expressed support. Specifically, the bill:
- Extends the current pay freeze for federal workers (including Members of Congress) through FY 2013 (saves $26 billion).
- Changes the co-pay structure for civilian federal retirees (saves $36 billion).
- Raises Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) guarantee fees to better price the risks GSEs cover and reduce their unfair advantages over the private sector (saves $38 billion).
- Includes spectrum auctions and other reforms to bring in significant revenues for taxpayers by making more efficient and effective use of the public’s airwaves (saves $16 billion).
- Reforms the National Flood Insurance Program by eliminating the premium subsidy for certain properties (saves $4 billion).
- Better coordinates with states and localities to prevent Social Security overpayments (saves $3 billion)
- Ensures that illegal immigrants who are not eligible to work in the U.S. do not get checks from the IRS (saves $9.4 billion).
- Gradually increases Medicare premiums for high income beneficiaries (saves $31 billion).
- Prohibits millionaires from receiving unemployment insurance and food stamp benefits (saves $20 million).