House OKs $15 billion jobs bill, Senate to vote on amendments March 16

Congressional Democrats made headway on their top legislative priority — job creation — when the House of Representatives approved a $15 billion package of tax credits and highway construction. The 217-to-201 vote gave Democrats a much-needed victory after weeks of delay caused by Republican tactics, a record-setting snowstorm, and internal bickering. More job-creation efforts are in the pipeline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said.

The Senate has already passed the legislation, but it was amended by the House and now goes back to the Senate for another vote set for Tuesday, March 16. The highway program is currently operating under a 30-day extension. For bill provisions previously passed by the House and Senate, which were not the subject of any changes made by the House, are the following, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA):

Highway Program Extension: Extends existing highway programs through Dec. 2010, which will allow Congress time to complete work on a multi-year reauthorization bill. The bill also includes a transfer of $19.5 billion from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to ensure the solvency of the program through the extension. This would be paid for by crediting the Highway Trust Fund for interest foregone on the HTF balance going back to 1998; allowing the fund to collect interest on the balance going forward; and changing the way the motor fuel tax exemption enjoyed by government vehicles are paid for, shifting the refund burden to the General Fund from the HTF.  
Expanding Build America Bonds: Allows state and local governments to borrow at lower costs to finance more infrastructure projects and put people to work. Issuers of tax credit bonds could receive a direct payment of 45 percent of the bond’s borrowing cost. Qualified small issuers would see a 65 percent direct payment.  The program currently pays 35 percent of the costs.  The program is slated to expire on Jan. 1, 2011, unless extended. 
Jobs Payroll Tax Exemption: Offers an exemption from social security payroll taxes for every worker hired in 2010 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days. There also would be an additional $1,000 income tax credit for every new employee retained for 52 weeks to be taken on the employer’s 2011 income tax return.
Section 179 Expensing: Helps small businesses grow by allowing them to write off more of their expenditures.