Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Payroll Tax Reduction At the last moment, in December, Congress passed legislation continuing unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and the reduction in payroll taxes paid by workers. However, this legislation continues UI and the Payroll Tax benefit only until February 29, 2012.
A Conference Committee has been named to work on a bill to extend the two-month provisions throughout 2012. Members of the Committee are:
Max Baucus (MT)
Jack Reed (RI)
Ben Cardin (MD)
Bob Casey (PA)
Van Hollen (MD)
The conference committee will focus on H.R. 3630, the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act” that was the basis for the debate in the House and Senate last year, and will try to come to a compromise bill to extend Unemployment Insurance , Payroll Tax cuts, and other provisions through 2012.
The House version of H.R. 3630 (passed the House in mid-December) contains harsh elements particularly affecting lower wage and older laid-off workers.
The Senate version of the bill stripped the above provisions, and included only a two-month extension of UI benefits and Payroll tax cuts.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
The legislation passed in December included an extension of TANF benefits until February 29, at the 2011 appropriations level.
Medicare Reimbursements to Doctors
In the House bill, doctors were protected from a 27% cut in reimbursement rates for treating Medicare patients for two years. The Senate bill extended the reimbursement rates for only two months.
A permanent “fix” is needed for the problem of reduced reimbursement, which was an error in earlier Medicare legislation. However, each year Congress has chosen to do a short-term fix, which denied a sense of security for future planning.
Regularly Renewed Tax Extenders
The legislation passed in December did not include extension of a number of tax policies, which then expired on December 31. One of these is a fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which provides a higher exemption amount for about 30 million tax-payers who fall below the income for which it is intended.
National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF)
A funding source for beginning the NHTF was identified, and received support for possible inclusion in the legislation extending UI and the Payroll Tax reduction. It was dropped in the end, but the Conference Committee has strong supporters of the trust fund planning for its inclusion.