The 'Pass This Bill' Jobs Plan Might Be What the Green Industry Needs

Packers looked good last night -- I'm thrilled to have football to watch again. And what an opening act Mr. Obama was. Let's take a look at components of his American Jobs Act and try to figure out what they could mean to the Green Industry. Payroll tax holidays. Obama said that by cutting the employee payroll tax in half, the average worker would have an additional $1,500 to spend. Not terribly impressive but what the heck, it's better than nothing. How much of that $1,500 do you think someone would spend on a lawn care package next spring, or maybe a paver patio? Even if they spend it on something completely unrelated to landscaping, it's money getting pumped into the economy, and that's a plus. Remember, two-thirds of the U.S. economy is consumer spending, so the more money we can put into the hands of consumers, the better. Employers would get some payroll tax perks as well. By also cutting this tax in half, mid-size and larger companies with more than 10-20 employees or more could save tens of thousands of dollars. Companies that add workers and/or provide raises to existing employees wouldn't pay any payroll taxes at all. Seems like these are some strong incentives to hire if you've been teetering on the edge. Of course, hiring requires expansion, and expansion requires confidence that there's a market and demand for your products or services. Investment deductions. By extending current tax provisions that allow companies to write off 100% of the cost of a new truck or piece of equipment, etc. in a single year, contractors and dealers are encouraged to make investments. That's a good thing. Now put your duct tape away and go out and buy a new mower this fall so you're locked and loaded come next spring! Housing. A plan to help struggling homeowners refinance could help speed up the housing market recovery. Housing is at the root of many of the problems the Green Industry faces, so this could be a welcomed initiative. However, the housing bubble is what got us into the mess we're in, and we don't need a repeat performance. I seem to recall George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential campaign season, often pointing to the record high rate of homeownership in the country as a sign of economic prosperity. We all know what happened just a few years later. The Act also proposes pumping money into refurbishing vacant, foreclosed homes. That could present some opportunity for lawn and landscape contractors. However, there needs to be a plan for what to do with those homes once they're refurbished or this will simply be another fleeting endeavor. Extending unemployment insurance. I'm a compassionate person, and agree that unemployment insurance needs to be extended to victims of the Great Recession. I also understand that much of this money gets pumped back into the economy when the unemployed buy food and gasoline and pay other bills. But I also believe that so long as landscape contractors need people to run mowers and plant trees, and equipment dealers need people to repair equipment, there are jobs available for some of the unemployed. There's obviously much, much more to the American Jobs Act, and you'll likely be hearing plenty about it over the next several weeks. Feel free to offer your two cents below. ~ Gregg Wartgow, editor in chief