States Await Outcome of Wrangling Over Obama Jobs Plan

By: - October 13, 2011 12:00 am

Crafted to win support on both sides of the aisle, President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan has run into party politics in Congress, leaving states to wonder if they will see some — or any — of the fiscal help that the measure would provide them.

The president’s legislation failed its first test on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (October 11), a procedural vote in the Democratic-held Senate. With the Senate’s Republican minority proving its ability to derail the plan — and the GOP firmly in control of the House of Representatives — lawmakers now intend to break apart Obama’s plan and consider its parts individually in the hopes of finding common ground.

For states, it is unclear whether they will receive any of the more than $100 billion that might have come their way under Obama’s larger proposal. As Stateline

has reported , Obama had hoped to help state and local governments with money for transportation projects and school construction, along with cash to retain teacher, police and firefighter jobs. Obama also wants to make the unemployment system more flexible by asking states to do more to help the jobless.

The Christian Science Monitor predicts that money for teachers, police and firefighters will be a “hard sell” for the GOP . “Republicans described a similar $53.6 billion item in Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan as pandering to his party’s base, especially powerful teachers unions,” the paper reports. “They also criticize the proposal for providing one-time raises or a (temporary) reprieve, then jolting workers later when the money runs out.”

Infrastructure projects may be more palatable for the GOP, though likely not to the tune of $60 billion, as Obama has proposed. That figure includes a $10 billion “infrastructure bank” that the president has long pushed, but which has gone nowhere on Capitol Hill.

The president’s proposed changes to the unemployment system may a better chance at bipartisan backing. As Stateline has noted, Obama wants more states to adopt innovative jobs programs that individual states have tried, including a popular job-training initiative in Georgia and another that would encourage the unemployed to become entrepreneurs . Republican House leaders have already praised some of the ideas.

Even though such programs may enjoy bipartisan support, however, they represent just a fraction of the president’s overall jobs bill — and won’t deliver much in the way of money to the states. Rather, they would simply encourage states to adopt ideas tried elsewhere by finding new ways to use their existing unemployment systems.

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