Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) is hoping to bring jobs back to the community and the nation with a new bill that provides an incentive for U.S. companies to keep their money here and puts a percentage of it into a fund that would be used to create infrastructure employment.
The legislation, titled the Putting America Back to Work Act 2011, was introduced earlier this month, preceding President Obama’s American Jobs Act, a comprehensive plan that provides tax cuts and incentives to small businesses among other steps to get the economy moving again.
“We are working together in the same direction,” Meeks said. “We are working in lockstep with the president.”
American companies have $1 trillion overseas, according to Meeks, and have paid foreign taxes on that money. If they brought the dollars here they would have to shell out another 35 percent, but Meeks’ bill reduces that to 15 percent and puts the money — about $180 billion — into a fund to create jobs building roads, bridges, tunnels, subways and other infrastructure.
“It would create thousands of jobs,” Meeks said. “It should be something everyone can agree on.”
The economic downturn has been particularly hard on minorities. The city’s population of young black men is twice as likely to be disconnected from education and employment as their white counterparts, while Latino men are 1.5 times as likely, according to the mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative report, released in August.
The unemployment rate for Queens, according the latest statistics from the New York State Department of Labor, was 7.7 percent for the month of July, two-tenths better than it was in June and a decrease from the 8.7 percent it was a year ago. The citywide rate was 8.8 percent in both June and July 2011 respectively compared to 9.7 a year ago.
Meeks called his legislation a “win-win” because the jobs created could be filled by those without a college education, it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers any money and it would help the country compete in a global market.
“As we know, infrastructure construction has a high return on investment, and by finding new sources of revenue we can keep our budget in check but still create jobs and help put Americans back to work,” Meeks said.
On Sept. 6, the bill was referred to the committee on Ways and Means and Transportation and Infrastructure.
Asked why he thinks the president didn’t include a similar measure in his jobs plan, Meeks replied, “The president can’t think of everything.”
Herlema Owens, president of the Association of Women Construction Workers of America, a group that offers free training for those trying to gain employment in the industry, said that her last class of students was a mix of both high school- and college-educated people, some of whom were looking for a way to support their families and others who were changing careers.
Asked what she thinks about Meeks’ bill, Owens said, “I would hope it would help. It seems it would be ideal. There are people in the construction industry who could benefit from it.”