A controversial bill to drastically overhaul the state’s unemployment system was approved by the Republican-controlled House Finance Committee on Thursday.
The 23-13 vote sets the stage for the entire state House to take up the bill Monday evening. An identical bill also was introduced in the Senate but has not been acted upon.
The bill cuts benefits for unemployed workers and slightly raises the state unemployment taxes paid by employers.
It’s designed to accelerate repayment of the state’s $2.57 billion debt to the federal government, money that was borrowed to pay unemployment benefits after unemployment soared during the recession. As long as the money is owed the federal unemployment taxes that employers pay will rise $21 per employee each year.
Democratic legislators complained that the bill, which was introduced on Wednesday on the first day of the legislative session, was being rushed through without adequate consideration of the repercussions on the unemployed.
Democrats also introduced several bills aimed at softening the bill’s impact on unemployed workers, but to no avail. Two amendments were voted down and two others were dismissed on technicalities that Democrats claimed were illusory.
Staff writer David Ranii