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Politics

On Tap: Son of Stimulus

Washington is responding to the growing urgency to reduce unemployment with another round of spending.

Expect Democrats to start pushing a jobs bill right away, with some parts, such as an extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies, winning approval before the end of the year. Bigger battles will come in early 2010.

One key element: Infrastructure spending. Perhaps as much as $27 billion will be pushed out the door in a “stimulus 2” bill in time for spring construction on roads and bridges. The Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders figure the spending will help generate or save more than 1 million jobs by the end of next year.

Besides the new funds that’ll be approved for highway work, contractors will see $13 billion coming from the first stimulus package approved by Congress in February 2009.

The jobs bill is also expected to funnel about $2 billion to municipalities for upgrades to drinking water and sewer systems. Plus $2 billion for an Energy Department loan program will assist municipalities and companies in deploying systems that make renewable power and upgrading electricity transmission lines.

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President Obama wants around $4 billion to give to state, local and tribal governments for rebuilding and modernizing schools, but he may not get all of it. Democrats plan to pay with unused money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), but Republican lawmakers prefer to use the TARP stash to reduce the deficit.

The jobs bill will also seek tax cuts for small business. The White House is pushing hard for an end to capital gains taxes for small firms to encourage investment as well as for incentives for smalls to step up hiring. Plus steps to provide more credit to smalls, though agreement on how may be elusive.

But all this help will be limited. Congress has no choice but to follow Obama and embrace the contradictory goals of spurring the economy while keeping deficits from growing too much more. Obama insists that the two are not irreconcilable because a growing economy is the single biggest engine for controlling deficits.

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