- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2011

House Republican leaders on Friday said President Obama’s latest jobs plan includes several “areas of common agreement” — from employer tax breaks to reforming the unemployment insurance system — from which the two sides could work together to develop a plan to help kick-start the slumping economy.

The GOP leaders, in a memorandum to House Republicans, stopped short making promises that a bipartisan deal could he hammered out with the White House. Still, the memo contained a significantly softer partisan tone than a speech House Speaker John A. Boehner gave a day earlier in which he reaffirmed his party’s stance that no tax increases be included in any debt reduction plan.

“We don’t question the president’s sincerity when he says he has crafted the right prescription for economic recovery,” said the joint memo by Mr. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and House GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

“To be clear, we don’t agree with portions of President Obama’s proposal, and Republicans have a different vision for the steps that need to be taken to help our economy get back to creating jobs. We are, however, committed to passing legislation to implement the policies in the areas where agreement can be found to support job creation and long-term economic growth.”

The GOP leaders’ “areas worthy of further discussion” include:

• Payroll tax relief: Mr. Obama said he wants the 2 percent payroll-tax cut extended into next year. House Republicans want it extended longer or made permanent.

• Free trade pacts: Implement pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea that were negotiated by President George W. Bush but have yet to be ratified by Congress.

• Infrastructure funding: The president has proposed $50 billion in immediate surface transportation funding and the creation of a new $10 billion national infrastructure bank for the repair or replacement of the nation’s aging roads, bridges and waterways. House Republicans say more study is needed to come up with a comprehensive long-term solution that eliminates duplicative funding programs.

• Extension of bonus depreciation program: Extending through 2012 the ability of businesses to expense 100 percent of the cost of certain property they place in service. Such “bonus depreciation” assistance, Republicans say, would make it easier for businesses to invest in new machinery and equipment.

• Government contractor tax break: Under current law as of Jan. 1, 2013, government contractors will have 3 percent of their payments for such goods or services withheld. The president has proposed delaying this requirement until Dec. 31, 2013. House Republicans have proposed repealing the requirement altogether.

• Incentives for hiring veterans: Increase efforts to assistant military veterans, such as the extension of sunsetting employer tax credits for hiring disabled and unemployed veterans.

• Unemployment insurance reforms: Reforms include “bridge to work” programs that allow the unemployed to pursue work-based training and enhanced reemployment assistance programs to target those most likely to be unemployed for an extended period of time.

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