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Tuesday September 13, 2011 | 05:06 PM

As President Obama pitched quick passage of his $447 billion jobs plan during a visit to Ohio today, a majority of the Maine congressional delegation still must be won over both by the plan and how Obama wants to pay for it.

But all four members of the Maine delegation, two Democrats and two Republicans, say it’s essential for Congress to find a way to forge consensus.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st, as she did right after Obama delivered his plan in a joint address to Congress last week, expressed the most support after Obama said that he wanted to pay for the plan in large part by limiting tax itemized deductions for Americans making more than $200,000 as individuals or $250,000 as households. Obama also wants to eliminate tax loopholes for major oil companies and get rid of tax breaks for owners of private jets and hedge fund managers. Still, Pingree, too, said she wants to study the details.

Pingree noted in a release this morning that the White House says Obama’s plan would yield at least $138 million to fix Maine roads and bridges as part of its infrastructure spending package. Its other benefits for Maine would include $120 million in federal funding to help communities retain teachers and first responders and possibly hire some workers who have been laid off, and it would cut the payroll tax in half for 30,000 Maine small businesses, extending a temporary payroll tax reduction for another year, according to Pingree, citing White House figures. Plus, businesses would get a 100 percent refund of their employer payroll taxes on all new jobs they create.

Asked whether she supported Obama’s proposed tax hikes to pay for the jobs plan, Pingree said via email that, "I support the president's efforts in this proposal to make the tax code simpler, fairer, and more progressive. “It's critical to our country for millionaires and billionaires to once again pay their fair share. I'll be looking closely at the details when they come to see how the proposed deductions fit into that."

Fellow Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud of the 2nd district said that he is still reviewing Obama’s proposal.

“But it appears to me the offsets the President uses to pay for his plan seem generally on track,” Michaud said. “The revenue provisions recognize that we can’t pay for new proposals on the backs of the hardworking families and small businesses we are looking to help. And I support closing corporate jet tax loopholes and ending the unnecessary tax giveaways to major oil companies.”

Still, Michaud said in an email that he doesn’t want to put “the cart before the horse. It’s important to thoroughly examine the impact on job creation of each proposal in his plan and make sure they are worth paying for in the first place.”

Neither of Maine’s GOP senators are embracing Obama’s entire plan or its financing mechanism.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-maine, said in an interview today on Capitol Hill that she is optimistic that the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans can forge a consensus on what the federal government can do to help create jobs.

“It ought to be possible for both sides to work together,” on the top priority of job creation, Collins said.

But she is “disappointed” by Obama’s proposal to limit itemized deductions on people making $200,000 or more, saying that could impact a number of small business owners and be “counterproductive” to the goal of job creation. Collins said she favors overhauling the tax code and hiking taxes on the extremely wealthy, perhaps people making $5 million a year or more.

Collins, however, does agree with Obama’s desire to eliminate tax breaks for large oil companies, and says she also would propose raising more revenues for job creation through savings such as eliminating the ethanol subsidy and canceling the second engine for the F-35 fighter plane.

Collins also touted her own jobs plan released earlier this year, which includes a focus on worker training. She said a number of manufacturers in Maine have told her they have job openings, particularly for machinists, but can’t find enough workers with the right skills.

Collins also backs the payroll tax reduction extension, as do a number of Republicans.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is on board with the payroll tax reduction, too.

But Snowe says she needs to review Obama’s financing proposal and says that there is no reason why Congress couldn’t pass individual parts of his package and other job creation proposals rather than get bogged down trying to pass one massive piece of legislation.

“It can’t be a zero sum game, that it’s all or nothing, up or down,” Snowe told reporters today on Capitol Hill. “I am going to evaluate everything on the basis of what will create the most jobs and what will be the most effective, because we can ill afford to get it wrong. Right now we have to be totally circumspect about everything until we are absolutely sure that these initiatives are going to be the most effective. It’s not what we think, it’s got to be what we know.”

Snowe also said she continues to believe that a total overhaul of the complicated federal tax code is needed, rather than continuing to pursue individual changes of the code “on the margins.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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