By JONATHAN WEISMAN And DAMIAN PALETTA
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama's budget proposal is expected to give states a way to collect more payroll taxes from businesses, in an effort to replenish the unemployment-insurance program. The plan could cause controversy at a time when the administration is seeking to mend fences with corporate America.
The proposal would aim to restock strained state unemployment-insurance trust funds by raising the amount of wages on which companies must pay unemployment taxes to $15,000, more than double the $7,000 in place since 1983.
The plan, which would take effect in 2014, could increase payroll taxes by as much as $100 billion over a decade, according to a person involved in its construction.
By proposing to enlarge the pool of wages subject to unemployment taxes, the White House appears to be offering states a more politically palatable way to raise revenues than to boost tax rates. States could keep the tax rates they have, or even lower them somewhat, and still raise considerably more revenue than they are raising now.
The unemployment insurance program is a joint federal-state program. The federal unemployment insurance tax rate of 6.2% on the new, larger base would be reduced, so that the U.S. would be taking in no more revenue than it does under the current system, a person familiar with the plan said.
To avoid hitting businesses with a tax increase during the economic recovery, the proposal would delay the new rules until 2014. The plan is expected to be included in Mr. Obama's budget proposal for fiscal 2012, to be released Monday.
Any proposal would need congressional approval.
State governments have had to borrow heavily from the federal government to cover the jobless benefits they provide. States are responsible for the first 26 weeks of benefits, and many have seen their reserve funds wiped out.
More than 40 states raised their unemployment-insurance payroll taxes last year to boost revenues.
The proposal comes as the White House is trying to improve relations with business groups while also pushing them for financial help to shore up the unemployment insurance system, drained by prolonged high joblessness.
Republican aides on Capitol Hill reacted warily. Increasing levies on businesses in the next few years could hit a wall of opposition among Republicans, said one senior G.O.P. tax aide in the Senate. Mr. Obama delivered a speech on Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to repair frayed relations with business and offering areas of possible cooperation.
Mr. Obama has promised business an effort to simplify the corporate tax code while lowering the corporate tax rate. Pushing for higher unemployment taxes could reignite tensions.
—Sara Murray contributed to this article.