White House Jobs Plan Echoes Jobs Measures in States

In his address before a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening, President Obama laid out a $447 billion package of policies intended to spur desperately needed job creation. A breakdown of the American Jobs Act shows a mix of proposals including targeted tax cuts and spending that have been supported on a bipartisan basis in the past, and which altogether are estimated to increase employment by up to 4.3 million jobs over the next two years.

States are set to be key players in many of the efforts outlined in the plan. In addition to providing desperately needed direct aid in the amount of $35 billion to states and local governments still struggling with historic revenue shortfalls (funding that is predicted to add 135,000 public and private sector jobs in 2012) as well as $30 billion in funding to modernize schools and $49 billion to continue extended unemployment benefits, other policies in the American Jobs Act echo innovations that have already been enacted with widespread support in states across the nation.

One such proposal, work-sharing, was enacted in the state of Maine this year with unanimous and bipartisan support in a legislative session that, like many across the nation this year, was brutally contentious. By allowing workers to keep their jobs while working fewer hours and collecting partial unemployment benefits, the policy has already allowed employers the flexibility they need to retain their workforces in many states. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggests that if the policy is as successful on a national basis as it has been in other countries, it would result in millions of new jobs.

Another piece of the American Jobs Act that was presaged by success in the states this year is the banning of employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed. New Jersey Gov. Christie signed similar legislation into law this year, and other bills protecting the record numbers of Americans who have found themselves out of work for extended time periods since the recession began were introduced in states including New York and Michigan. In many states, these policies have been enacted with bipartisan support — and there is no reason policies like these should not win broad support in Congress as well. Regardless of their ultimate fate in D.C., both will continue to be priorities for state legislators in 2012 looking to ensure the job security of their constituents.

Other recently enacted state policies that were highlighted in the President’s jobs plan require more caution and scrutiny. A program in Georgia that allows workers to train on a voluntary basis with a potential employer while still receiving unemployment benefits received praise in the President’s speech, but the National Employment Law Project has underscored the potential danger of it and similar programs that mix voluntary work with unemployment insurance. Oversight and accountability of programs like this are clearly needed.

And while economists are broadly predicting that the package proposed by the President would significantly boost the economy and directly grow jobs, questions remain about how the fully paid-for package will indeed be paid for. In his speech this week, the President outlined the need to make “modest adjustments” to Medicare and Medicaid — proposals which he is expected to elaborate on as he releases a deficit reduction plan later this month, and which would also affect state economies directly and possibly painfully.

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee released the following document outlining the impact of the American Jobs Act for all 50 states — scroll down to see all of the numbers on how the jobs plan is expected to affect your state:

The American Jobs Act - State by State