Obama discusses jobs act in Columbus

Caitlin Restelli

KentWired Video

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Video courtesy TV2 KSU reporter Whitney Chaffin.

An audience of about 1,000 crowded around a stage at Fort Hayes Art and Academic High School in Columbus Tuesday, basking in 80 degree weather to hear President Barack Obama’s words about his newly proposed bill — the $447 billion American Jobs Act.

The act, sent to Congress Sept. 12, is meant to grow the economy through new jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, young people and the unemployed.

“This is a plan that does two things: It puts people back to work, and it puts more money in the pockets of working Americans,” Obama said.

Obama is looking for people to tell Congress to push this bill through quickly. Fort Hayes — a school that has been undergoing a modernization project since 2006 — was his second stop on his mission to raise awareness.

Fort Hayes was originally built during the Civil War, which is why it underwent renovation several years ago, making it more adequate for the 21st century.

Obama said the school is doing exactly what he wants this bill to do — create more jobs. The school renovation project provided over 250 jobs for masons, concrete workers, carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

“There are schools all throughout Ohio that need this kind of renovation,” Obama said. “There are construction projects … all across the country just waiting to get started and there are millions of unemployed construction workers who are looking for a job.

“So my question to Congress is: What on Earth are we waiting for?”

The crowd responded to Obama’s words throughout the speech by chanting, “Pass this bill! Pass this bill!”

The act proposes $30 billion to be used for school infrastructure and modernization. That money will also allow schools to hire and retain teachers.

If this bill is passed there will be funding to save jobs of up to 14,000 Ohio teachers, police and firefighters, Obama said.

Lori McKenzie, assistant director of training and development at Columbus State University, said the act is the best plan she has heard so far. In fact, she added, the only plan.

“It will help us be able to allow our students to get the education they need and to secure their jobs,” McKenzie said.

Obama said budget cuts in Ohio are forcing schools to make layoffs and cut programs that should not be cut.

“Think about it. There are places like South Korea that are adding teachers to prepare their kids for the global economy,” Obama said. “At the same time as we’re laying off our teachers left and right; while we’ve got school districts that have eliminated all extracurricular activities — art, sports, you name it.

“It is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future and it has to stop,” he said. “Tell Congress to pass the American Jobs Act so we can put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.”

The bill cuts taxes for small businesses that hire new employees, it cuts taxes for small businesses that raise salaries for current employees and it cuts small business payroll taxes in half, Obama explained.

Darlene Szuhay-Zigmont, dance teacher at Fort Hayes, said the school could have used this act a couple years ago when they started re-doing the school.

But Szuhay-Zigmont said she thinks “it will help with just refurnishing some of the old buildings … to be able to make the campus more expansive.”

Obama’s next stop for his rally tour is a small manufacturing business in Apex, NC as well as North Carolina State University Wednesday, Sept. 14.

“There is work to be done, there are workers ready to do it; so let’s tell Congress ‘pass this bill right away,’” Obama said.

Contact Caitlin Restelli at [email protected].