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Posted April 8, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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State considers extending benefits
General Assembly expected to tackle proposed legislation from Kaine today
By Garren Shipley — email@example.com
Should Virginia take federal stimulus dollars to expand unemployment benefits?
The question will be settled on the floor of the General Assembly today.
Legislators are slated to gather in Richmond at noon to consider Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s proposed amendments to legislation passed during this year’s session.
Among those changes are modifications to Senate Bill 1495, which would bring the commonwealth into compliance with provisions in the federal “stimulus” bill, clearing the way for Virginia to get an additional $125 million to fund unemployment insurance claims.
Kaine’s changes are two-fold: one would allow claimants to file for an additional 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for people who lost jobs in “declining industries” and are enrolled in training.
The other would allow part-time workers who lost their jobs to claim unemployment while they sought new part-time work.
“As we work to get our economy back on track, it’s critical we provide Virginians with the temporary assistance they need to weather the storm,” said Kaine. “The commonwealth has the power — and the obligation — to make necessary changes to our laws that support displaced workers facing serious economic challenges.”
Taking the money is a bad idea, according to Republicans, and GOP members of the House of Delegates announced Tuesday that they intend to fight the proposal.
Kaine’s amendments would radically change the character of unemployment insurance in Virginia, said Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg.
Raising the cost of unemployment insurance taxes on business is the wrong thing to do when Virginia is fighting with other states for jobs.
“By accepting the governor’s proposed amendments — particularly when other southern states are considering not expanding unemployment benefits — we jeopardize our status as one of America’s most business-friendly states,” Norment said.
The federal law requires new benefits to be continued after federal funding runs out, according to Republicans. Kaine’s office says the new benefits would expire when the federal money ran out.
Even without paying for expanded benefits, taxes to cover unemployment insurance are expected to climb from $98 to $199 per employee per year over the coming three years, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
Virginia is a bargain for unemployment taxes, regardless of any increase, according to Kaine.
The Old Dominion is already far lower than all of its neighbors and well under the national average of $285, according to Kaine’s office — ranked 49th nationally in terms of cost.
“Even if the General Assembly chose to maintain the proposed eligibility adjustments beyond the period that the additional federal funds will pay for, Virginia’s average annual tax rate per employee for unemployment insurance would remain one of the ten lowest in the nation,” according to a statement from the governor’s press office.
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