PORTLAND — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a roundtable of Oregon business leaders that President Barack Obama’s jobs plan would create 5,500 construction jobs in this state.

The pitch on Tuesday in Portland was part of Vilsack’s nationwide tour in support of the jobs plan. Obama is trying to muster support for the plan he sent to Congress on Sept. 12.

“We’ve had 18 months of consecutive private-sector job growth,” Vilsack said. “We obviously need to do more, and we need to do it faster.”

Vilsack said the plan has three elements: infrastructure investment, debt reduction and tax cuts.

The payroll tax cut offered to small businesses, which would reduce their tax to 3.1 percent on the first $5 million in wages, would prod businesses to hire, Vilsack said.

“In the state of Oregon, 90,000 firms will benefit from that tax cut,” Vilsack said. “That will give them the resources and flexibility to potentially consider expanding and additional hiring.”

A major part of the plan is its incentives for businesses to hire the long-term unemployed. Oregon has 100,000 people who have been without work for six months or longer.

Vilsack said businesses would get tax breaks for hiring from that pool. The plan couples those breaks with tax incentives for hiring military veterans.

As part of infrastructure improvement in Oregon, Vilsack said the state would receive $426 million for highway and transit modernization projects.

Money would also be routed to state and local governments in direct assistance — money Vilsack said Oregon could use to avoid layoffs to teachers and first responders.

The $350 million sent to Oregon would save the jobs of 4,600 teachers, he said.

Vilsack said Congressional Republicans and Democrats have each supported elements of the plan in the past.

By investing in technology and reducing its debt, the U.S. agriculture market is experiencing unprecedented gains and record exports, he said.

“I know this will work, and the way I know it works is because it’s working in agriculture today,” Vilsack said.

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