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Casey Offers Payroll Tax Compromise

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

Republicans and Democrats in Washington share one thing on their Christmas lists this holiday season.  They want a compromise on the payroll tax.  However, reaching a compromise is proving to be no easy task.

Late Thursday night, the Senate voted to block both Democratic and Republican plans for extending the current payroll tax cut.

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey had written a payroll tax cut plan which the Senate turned down.  The plan would have cut the current rate of 4.3 percent to 3.1 percent.  Casey claimed the plan would provide the average family 15,000 more dollars next year.

In his statement released Friday, Casey said:

“Leading economists have told us that failing to extend this legislation will put less money in the pockets of American families and hurt economic growth and job creation.”

“We cannot let the payroll tax cut expire at the end of this year – in fact we must do more by increasing it. We must give families additional relief and every single small business a tax cut next year by passing legislation that gets our economy moving again and gets people back to work,” said Casey.

Now that Casey’s initial plan failed, he’s offering a compromise which the Senate will vote on later this week.

Casey’s compromise would reduce the size of his package by about one-third.  In order to appeal to his Republican opponents, the compromise modifies the millionaires’ surtax and it includes a GOP proposal to cut off millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps.

In his statement released Monday, Casey said:

“As the clock continues to tick down, it is imperative that we come together now on a middle income tax cut.  The legislation is fully paid for and includes measures that have received bipartisan support in the past. It is time to act to help working families in Pennsylvania and across the country get back on their feet and jump start the economy. We can no longer afford to jeopardize working families in order to protect the wealthiest few.”

Lawmakers want to hang on to the recent decrease in unemployment.

Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment decreased from 9.0 to 8.6 percent in the month of November, marking the lowest level in more than two and a half years, but if you ask PA state officials this news is nothing to celebrate over.

Nationwide, 120,000 jobs were created, however participation in the job market dropped from 64.2 percent to 64 percent, indicating that some people have given up searching for jobs.

Despite signs of slight improvement, Republican officials in PA remain concerned about the economy.

Although he is encouraged by the decline in the national unemployment rate, Rep. Tom Marino (R-Lycoming) is concerned about what he called the “hidden message behind the report.”

“More than 300,000 people stopped looking for a job last month,” Marino said. “To think that so many Americans have given up hope is absolutely disheartening. We owe our citizens much more than that. They deserve so much more.”

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Chester) finds the evidence that Americans have simply given up looking for work unacceptable.

“While it was good to see the unemployment rate moving in the right direction, there are still more than 13 million Americans looking for jobs. Many of them have been trying hard to get a job for months or even years.  In part, the unemployment rate fell because some Americans simply decided to stop looking. This is unacceptable,” said Pitts.

On the whole, state Democrats are perhaps more encouraged then Republicans by the latest jobless report.

“The good news is that the U.S. economy is showing some forward momentum through the fourth quarter, with weak‐to‐moderate hiring, weak real income growth, rising car sales (up to a 13.6 million unit rate in November) and generally favorable conditions for manufacturing,” Casey said.

Last week, a study found that the Harrisburg region’s unemployment rate fell to 7.1 percent in October, and the unemployment rate also fell in every single Pennsylvania county.  This has happened only seven times since 1971.

Despite these improvements, experts are saying the region still has a long road left to fiscal recovery.

Analyst for the state Department of Labor and Industry William Sholly told the Patriot-News “I generally tell people not to read too much into one months’ movement.”

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