Obama jobs council offers up proposals appealing to GOP

President Obama’s Jobs Council offered the White House a detailed menu of job-creating recommendations, many of which should appeal to congressional Republicans as well as Democrats.

The council, led by GE head Jeffrey Immelt, a Republican, released its interim report late Monday focusing on medium-term reforms that could boost employment. Among its recommendations are easing environmental and health regulations and reducing taxes on investors.

The group calls the political environment challenging and says it has stayed away from proposals that would be costly.

“As a non-partisan group, we’ve also steered clear of the fights that invariably swirl around the nation’s current economic strains,” the report states.

The group focuses on five areas: improving infrastructure and energy development; helping high-growth firms; attracting foreign direct investment; simplifying regulations; and improving education and immigration to increase job skills.

The council performs a politically delicate dance in the energy section, calling for “balance” on projects like the controversial Keystone pipeline, which industry wants to see built to carry oil sands from Canada to refineries in Texas.

For start-ups, the council is recommending extending a capital gains tax exclusion for small businesses and lowering the rate to 10 percent from 15 percent for investors in start-ups. It also calls for the easing of Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules and requirements in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Multiple sections of the report call for visa reform, including easing green-card requirements for science and engineering graduates and allowing more highly-skilled workers and entrepreneurs to obtain temporary visas.

The foreign investment section includes a watered down recommendation to “explore tax reforms” but does not specify what new corporate tax rates should be or whether loopholes should be closed.

The regulations section also does not single out specific regulations being proposed by the Obama administration for repeal, but it does urge an overhaul of the permitting process. The council calls for new legislation to extend new regulatory look-back requirements beyond the federal agencies under Obama’s control to independent agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

On education, the Jobs Council urges an initiative to produce 10,000 new engineering graduates.