Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

House, Senate pass payroll tax cut for 2012: You keep your money

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WASHINGTON--The House and Senate on Friday agreed to continue the Social Security payroll tax break through all of 2012, sending a measure to President Barack Obama to sign. That break started under Obama in 2011 and goes to everyone who gets a paycheck. It's your money you get to keep.

The House approved the bill 293-132, and the Senate went along, 60-36. The legislation also includes what is nicknamed a "doc fix,' preventing a 27 percent decrease in payment rates to physicians who treat Medicare patients and makes changed in unemployment insurance benefits.

Obama for months had been pushing the GOP House to extend his Social Security payroll tax break that was effective in 2011. The Obama team launched a mini-campaign, framing the break in terms of what it would mean for a lot of people who get a paycheck, figuring a $40 weekly savings was "typical."

Anyone who receives a paycheck got a break in 2011 by paying less Social Security tax. For someone who earns $106,000, the cut was worth about $2,000; for a $50,000 earner, about $1,000.

FOOTNOTE: White House hopeful Mitt Romney got in some trouble when he said at an Oct. 11 Republican debate at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire that Obama's payroll tax breaks are just a "temporary little Band-Aids."

Memo from the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee regarding unemployment insurance changes in the legislation:

Myths vs. Facts
Conference Agreement on Unemployment Insurance

MYTH: Agreement puts in place new job search requirements so those receiving
unemployment benefits at both the state and federal level actually look for a

FACT: Federal regulations currently require that all UI recipients be able and
available for work and every state now requires UI recipients to actively seek

MYTH: Agreement allows blanket drug testing of recipients of unemployment

FACT: Under current law, states can already disqualify individuals from UI when
they are fired for cause for substance abuse, and states can disqualify
individuals who refuse to take, or fail, a drug test from a prospective
employer. The agreement limits any drug testing to only those losing their jobs
because of unlawful use of a controlled substance and those seeking employment
in occupations generally requiring a drug test as regulated by the Secretary of

MYTH: Agreement reduces the maximum number of weeks to 63 this year.

FACT: Agreement retains the maximum level (99 weeks) of Unemployment Insurance
through May, reduces the maximum to 79 through August for all but a few states
and to 73 in September - all depending on a state's unemployment rate.

MYTH: Eliminates the "Extended Benefits" program, which allowed states to
receive an additional 20 weeks of federal benefits.

FACT: Extended Benefits program remains in effect through the remainder of the
year, although states will continue to become ineligible for the program
(because of the three-year look-back requirement) as the year continues. Many
states will continue to receive EB in the coming months, with 18 states
remaining eligible for the program into May. Importantly, if a state loses
access to EB between March and the end of May, unemployed workers can receive an
additional 10 weeks in Tier 4 of EUC.

MYTH: The vast majority of states currently receive 93-plus weeks of benefits.

FACT: Currently, fewer than half<>
(22) of states are eligible for 93-plus weeks of unemployment insurance, with
just 18 states getting the full maximum of 99 weeks.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 17, 2012 11:24 AM.

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