U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says an Iowa family with a $50,000 annual income would see nearly $1600 more taken out of their January paycheck if congress doesn’t vote to extend the payroll tax cut. 

“It is really important for us to continue the momentum that’s been building in rural communities. The unemployment rate has gone down in rural America at a faster rate than in any other part of the country. It’s now below the unemployment rate in urban centers for the first time in a while,” Vilsack says. “We want to continue that and the last thing this economy needs is for small businesses and families to receive a tax increase.”

According to Vilsack, the proposal President Obama’s pressing congress to pass also would mean a tax cut for 60,000 small businesses in Iowa.

“Some farm families and operations actually hire workers and so the payroll tax for small business would also impact and affect their operations in terms of the bottom line,” Vilsack says, “so whether you’re a farm-owner with employees or you’re working off the farm, this proposal matters.”

The Republican-led U.S. House passed a bill that would extend the payroll tax cut, but it also would speed approval of an oil pipeline from Canada, as Republicans say the project will create jobs. Democrats oppose the pipeline provisions and argue federal inspectors need more time to examine questions about the oil pipeline that would stretch from Alberta to Texas. Vilsack raps Republicans for dragging out the debate, since both parties now agree the payroll tax should be extended.

“This is the problem with Washington. This is the problem with congress. It’s the reason why they’re at a record low in terms of citizen satisfaction and approval,” Vilsack says. “In Iowa, when I was governor, I worked with a Republican legislature. We got things done because people expected us to get things done. That’s what they were paying us to do.” 

Vilsack argues “momentum” in the economy is at stake if congress doesn’t come to some agreement.

“Virtually every noted economist in this country, whether they’re progressive or conservative, have indicated that the payroll tax extension and expansion will be helpful to the economy, will help to stimulate economic activity,” Vilsack says, “which in turn will lead to job growth.” 

Vilsack made his comments this morning during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.