WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats will unveil a jobs-creation bill in the Senate next week that incorporates ideas laid out by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech, Democratic senators said on Thursday.
Final legislation that emerges from Congress could include some Obama proposals, like tax incentives for hiring and increased small business lending, they said.
Those efforts could join proposals already on the table, such as money for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and funds to help states avoid layoffs of teachers and other public employees.
Democratic lawmakers, with a nervous eye on the November congressional election, say their top priority this year is to bring down the 10 percent U.S. unemployment rate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would unveil a jobs package that would include long and short-term measures.
“We’re going to have a jobs agenda,” Reid told reporters. “We’re going to do more than one thing (about unemployment).”
Senate Democrats were nearing completion of a jobs bill with a cost of $80 billion to $100 billion after the House of Representatives passed a $155 billion measure in December.
But Obama’s jobs-focused State of the Union speech has sent them back to the drawing board, said Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan, one of the two lawmakers heading the effort.
“The decision is to try to work some of these additional recommendations into a jobs plan, hopefully next week we’ll have that completed,” Dorgan told reporters.
According to legislators and aides, the Senate bill was expected to focus on four main elements:
* increased spending on highways and other infrastructure;
* aid to help cash-strapped states avoid layoffs of teachers and other public employees;
* green-energy measures like a weatherization program that would create construction jobs and boost energy efficiency in homes and other buildings;
* increased aid to small business.
In his State of the Union address, Obama proposed using $30 billion from a Wall Street bailout fund to help smaller banks extend loans to small businesses.
He also proposed a tax credit for small businesses that hire new workers, tax breaks to encourage businesses to buy new equipment and investments in small businesses.
Obama’s tax breaks could meet resistance from liberal Democrats who question whether they would actually affect business activity.
“How do you know that they wouldn’t have hired that person anyway?” Senator Tom Harkin said of the job-creation tax credit. “It’s very inefficient.”
Dorgan emphasized that many elements of the Senate’s jobs package remained unresolved and the previous cost estimate would have to be revised.
Any bill passed by the Senate would have to be reconciled with legislation passed by the House, which includes infrastructure spending and aid to states, but did not contain small-business aid or green-energy measures.
Additional reporting by David Morgan and Thomas Ferraro, editing by Alan Elsner and Chris Wilson