WASHINGTON President Barack Obama sought on Tuesday to revive a plan to give small businesses tax breaks and help start-up firms, ideas he proposed over the last year and which will feature in his 2013 budget next month, the White House said.
Obama told a meeting of his cabinet that a top priority in this election year was to have Congress eliminate capital gains for investments in small businesses and extend some deductions for equipment and software purchases, to help smaller firms grow faster and create more jobs.
Addressing reporters at the beginning of that meeting, the president said Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill were talking about ideas he floated in his State of the Union address last week about making it easier for small businesses to get start-up money and giving incentives for firms to hire and pay more.
"My expectation and hope is that they will get a bill together quickly, that they will pass it and get it on my desk. I will sign it right away and I would like to see that bill signed this year," he said.
Republicans said that a number of these proposals had already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, which they control, and the holdup was with the Democrat-held Senate.
The White House, acknowledging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had taken the initiative to help small businesses, said the president's goal was to put together proposals in a single package that could gain the support of both parties.
This "is not about a contest for whom can claim credit, but whether we can demonstrate an ability to come together in a bipartisan way to do something that will accelerate job growth and hiring," said Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council.
JOBS RECORD CRUCIAL
Congress is starkly divided on partisan lines and has been largely resistant to Obama's proposals over the last year. But the White House hopes business-friendly measures supported by both parties will get traction, even as lawmakers focus on campaigning ahead of the November 6 presidential and congressional elections.
Obama's jobs record will be key to his re-election chances in November.
Obama's small business ideas, to be part of his February 13 budget package, include a 10 percent tax credit for small businesses that add jobs or raise wages and a plan to eliminate country-specific caps for some immigrant visas so the United States can attract more high-skilled foreign workers, including entrepreneurs.
They would also reduce taxes on entrepreneurs' start-up costs and make it easier for small firms to go public without jumping through the Securities and Exchange Commission's registration hoops, raising the limit for "mini-public offerings" to $50 million from $5 million.
Sperling said the budget cost of the proposed package was a little under $48 billion, with $32.7 billion due to the 10 percent tax credit. But he stressed paying for these steps would be amply covered by revenue raising measures the president will outline in his budget next month.
"We would clearly work together with Democrats and Republicans in both houses to fund an offset package that would be acceptable to the president and relevant members of Congress," Sperling said.
Obama said government agencies - including the departments of energy, education, commerce and homeland security - were under instruction to do all they can to make life easier for small businesses.
"They are also thinking about how are we advancing the cause of giving small businesses and entrepreneurs the opportunity to start creating the next Google or the next Apple, or the next innovative company that is going to create jobs and improve our economy," he said.
(Reporting By Alister Bull and Laura MacInnis; Editing by Paul Simao and Cynthia Osterman)