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Why Scranton Needs the Payroll Tax Cut

Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake reflects on the President's visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The President is traveling across the country to show how the American Jobs Act will help modernize our schools, rebuild our infrastructure, and put Americans back to work. On Wednesday the President was in Scranton, Pennsylvania where he pushed Congress to act to extend and expand the payroll tax cut that has given tax breaks to millions of families across the country this year.

Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake reflects on the President’s remarks in Scranton:

Last week I had the deep honor and pleasure to meet President Obama during his visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania in my 22nd Senatorial District.  The President came to Scranton -- his Vice-President’s boyhood home, with a message that resonated deeply and well with the people of this city and indeed with families throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. He came to talk about jobs and economic growth.  The President has had jobs and the economy on the top of his agenda since the day he took office three years ago -- and my commentary here would be incomplete if I failed to remind those reading it that our nation was losing over 700,000 jobs per month on the day the President took office.  The President policies stopped this economic free-fall and as a result we have seen the economy add private sector jobs for 21 straight months.

The American Jobs Act recently advanced by the President and his administration contains elements of bipartisan origin.  Some of the programs contained in this important proposal have not only been supported by the Republican Party but they have been sponsored by Republican members of the U.S. Congress.  Further, over 2/3rds of the American people of every political stripe support this legislation.  The unwillingness of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate to debate it or vote on it, evidences, as the President aptly pointed out in Scranton yesterday, that some in Congress are willing to put the priorities of their party above the urgent necessity for courageous leadership and good governance for the good of the country as a whole.

The President is to be commended for advancing smart, balanced public policies that can grow our economy and strengthen key community, business, transportation and educational assets for the next generation while remaining focused on reducing the federal deficit.  His plan to extend and enhance the payroll tax cut approved under his signature last December is but one of those smart policies.  It would provide essential tax relief to over 230,000 firms in Pennsylvania and provide average households here in Scranton with nearly $1,500 in additional spending power.  Congress must approve this measure.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It is higher than the state average and higher than the national average.  But quoting unemployment statistics does not impart the real pain that individuals and families are feeling here.  There are highly educated, highly skilled, highly credentialed and highly motivated and productive people still struggling to find work.  The President has been working mightily to improve their prospects for a better future and for that we in Scranton and in Northeastern Pennsylvania are grateful.

As the President noted at the Scranton High School, our region’s story is a story of resilience.  Early in the 19th century we provided a third of the iron rails supporting the expansion of the U.S. economy; with anthracite coal we provided the fuel for the Industrial Revolution; as the Electric City we demonstrated the power of entrepreneurship and deployed the first electric trolley car system in the nation.  We are the cradle of the labor movement in America – a movement that served to create and strengthen the middle class.  When we witnessed the collapse of core industries and when deep economic recession set us back we re-made ourselves and rebounded stronger – often with the assistance of capable, bi-partisan leadership at all levels of government. When President Obama spoke to us yesterday he spoke the language of this proud, hard working community when he said “Scranton, just like you don’t quit, I don’t quit.”  It is an inspirational message to a resilient people who know the President is fighting for them – the teachers, firefighters, veterans, college graduates, senior citizens, small businesses and working class families of Northeastern Pennsylvania.