The latest federal jobs bill making its way around snowbound Washington this week is much less ambitious than a measure approved by the House last December, and it focuses more on tax credits for businesses that hire people who are unemployed.
There are many details in the 362-page bill that haven’t been made public yet, so it would be premature to endorse the entire package. But the tax breaks for businesses worked out by Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah are a reasonable step toward getting unemployed Americans back to work.
The bill would authorize a payroll tax credit for businesses that hire and retain people who have been unemployed for 60 days or more. It would also continue a small-business loan program and extend dozens of tax credits for businesses and individuals.
Additionally, the proposal would reauthorize the $286 billion transportation funding act, an ongoing federal program that expired last September. Reauthorizing the measure will allow states to do a better job of planning for highway projects.
At $89 billion, the proposal is not cheap. But it is a little more than half the cost of the $154 billion House bill, and it focuses more on items needed to encourage businesses to put people back to work.