As Democrats move on to Plan B to salvage elements of the American Jobs Act, Sen. Harry Reid said Tuesday that its promise of $25 billion to upgrade school buildings is among the parts most worth saving.
"I am extremely excited about the renovation of schools. That is a huge amount of construction jobs," Reid said on a conference call with reporters. He also singled out a part of the proposal that would grant tax credits to companies that hire jobless veterans.
Reid spoke about two hours before the Senate reached a crossroads on the American Jobs Act, which is President Barack Obama’s proposal to goose the stalled economy.
As widely expected, Reid, the Senate majority leader, fell well short of the 60 votes needed on a cloture motion to move forward on the $447 billion bill that combined spending on infrastructure repairs and public employee hiring, job training reforms and an extension of jobless benefits, and tax breaks for companies that add jobs.
Republicans opposed the measure, calling it another attempt by Obama to throw money at the economy while paying for it through higher taxes, even as Democrats amended the bill to target tax increases on people earning more than $1 million. Two Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jon Tester of Montana, also voted not to move forward on the bill.
Anticipating the vote, Obama and key Democrats had signaled they were preparing to rework the broad legislation into smaller pieces that might find sufficient support to pass on their own.
On the conference call, Reid was asked his view on which parts of the legislation would offer the most bang for the buck if it they broken out into smaller bills.
"There are plenty of them we need to move forward on," Reid said, singling out the spending for school renovations and veterans assistance.
As part of his pitch for the American Jobs Act, Reid arranged the call for Nevada school officials, a state job training official and the owner of one of his favorite restaurants to give it an embrace. The Nevadans talked up individual elements that now may or may not see daylight.
— Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent for community and government relations at the Clark County School District said the promise of money for school renovations would allow for renovations at older schools deemed in need of air conditioning, plumbing or electrical overhauls.
She was echoed by Patty Charlton, senior vice president for finance at the College of Southern Nevada. Charlton said the federal infusion would renovate classrooms and install more reliable wireless Internet.
According to the White House, Nevada would receive $168 million for school upgrades, estimating it would put as many as 2,200 people to work on the renovations.
— Frank Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the bill would extend the safety net for 35,000 Nevadans who might otherwise lose unemployment benefits later this year. The bill extends payments into 2013.
Woodbeck said further it would allow for the expansion of the new Silver State Works program that provides job training financial incentives for both employers and Nevadans looking for work in new fields.
"By an estimate it could possibly touch 90,000 long term unemployed workers in Nevada either by putting them back to work or protecting them on the down side right now," Woodbeck said.
— Bryce Krausman, the owner of DW Bistro on South Fort Apache Road, which Reid said, "Really, honestly, is one of my favorite places", spoke favorably of a proposed payroll tax cut for small business employers.
"A lot of small businesses in Las Vegas are struggling right now which is why all these tax cuts for us area really important," said Krausman, who said he added three workers last week to his expanding restaurant.