- Jobs and the Economy
Jobs and the Economy
The economic challenges currently facing America are some of the greatest since the Great Depression.
Working families have been hit hard by the combined crises in lending, jobs, and the housing market. We need swift action to get people back to work and keep families in their homes, while finally confronting our long-term challenges so that the American economy can grow and prosper in the years ahead.
While the entire nation is feeling the effects of the current economic crisis, Oregon, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, has been hit especially hard.
Boosting Small Businesses
Small businesses employ one-half of the nation’s workforce and are key to creating jobs. In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act to help entrepreneurs jump-start their own businesses and provide small businesses with tax cuts and improved access to lending. Senator Merkley led the effort to include a provision in the Small Business Jobs Act that helps healthy community banks lend more to small businesses. When small businesses have access to capital, they can grow and create jobs.
Senator Merkley also successfully included in the Small Business Jobs Act his Jump Start Act to help give small businesses a financial boost in their first year. Merkley’s bill increases deductions for start-up expenses from $5,000 to $10,000 and increases the threshold for the phase-out of the deduction. The provision encourages entrepreneurs to create jobs now instead of waiting for the economy to recover.
Creating Jobs, Lowering Energy Costs
Energy-saving renovations to homes and businesses can create construction jobs, support a growing clean energy sector, and put more money in the pockets of families and businesses. To assist homeowners and business owners with the high upfront costs of these renovations, Senator Merkley introduced the Clean Energy for Homes and Buildings Act in 2009. The legislation allows homeowners and business owners to receive low-interest loans that can be paid back through the savings in energy bills.
Jump-starting the Economy
In response to the onset of the economic crisis, Senator Merkley worked with President Obama and his colleagues in Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). According to independent experts, there are 3.3 million Americans working today who would otherwise be unemployed if not for the Recovery Act. Its funding for road and bridge repairs, new investments in clean energy, and hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for families and businesses all helped spur private sector hiring. Unfortunately, although the Recovery Act created millions of jobs and helped stem job losses, there is much more work to be done to put our economy back on track. Senator Merkley is focused on other strategies to create incentives for private companies to hire and to rebuild the damaged fundamentals of our economy so that it works for working Americans.
Tax Cuts for Working Families
Along with President Obama, Senator Merkley is working to restore fairness to the American tax system. Between 2000 and 2008, enormous tax cuts were doled out to the wealthiest Americans and special interests while middle class families, who really need the extra dollars in their pockets, have seen their share of the tax burden increase.
In February of 2009, Senator Merkley helped pass the Make Work Pay credit of $400 per person for those making up to $75,000 and $800 per couple for those making up to $150,000; a new $2500 American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education; and a $250 one-time payment for Social Security recipients. These tax cuts impact 95 percent of workers and their families.
Senator Merkley also supports permanent tax cuts for all Americans on income up to $250,000 a year but believes the country cannot afford to add $800 billion to the deficit in order to pass another round of tax cuts for millionaires. His tax plan is focused on helping middle class families and the small businesses that drive our economy.
Rural Economic Development
If Oregon’s rural economy is to grow, there must be significant investment in rural infrastructure. Senator Merkley is working aggressively to bring new economic opportunities in agriculture, sustainable timber harvests, and renewable energy production to rural communities, as well as promoting modern transportation systems to move goods and people and improving access to government services such as good schools and health facilities.
Senator Merkley is a son of timber country and grew up in Myrtle Creek where his father worked as a millwright. He understands the economic devastation that has resulted from the collapse of Oregon’s timber harvests. As Oregon’s Senator, Merkley has led efforts to open new opportunities to expand biomass as a renewable energy source. He has pushed the Obama Administration to take a strong stand against Canadian abuses in the trade of softwood lumber. In addition, he believes that Oregon’s federal forest lands can support a steady and predictable timber harvest at the same time that they are restored to protect old growth and endangered species, and he is deeply engaged with federal agencies and stakeholders to work towards that vision. Timber is not only an economic lifeblood for rural Oregon, it is a way of life that Senator Merkley believes in.
Increasingly, America’s economy relies on digital connections that span the continent and the globe. Oregon is home to a number of cutting-edge technology companies, and broadband Internet access in rural areas is essential to retaining those jobs and attracting new companies from any industry. Senator Merkley is working to expand broadband infrastructure to help ensure employment opportunities in rural areas.
The greatest driving force behind rural economic growth is a population of skilled and innovative workers. Senator Merkley is working to make higher education more affordable and help Oregon’s technical and community colleges train the next generation of skilled workers and business leaders.
In 2009, Senator Merkley co-sponsored the Economic Development Revitalization Act to strengthen the development capability of the Economic Development Agency (EDA). EDA grants have a proven record of creating jobs at the local level and providing a high return of investment for Oregon, leveraging $10 in private funding for every $1 of federal funding.