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March 22, 2011
UI Bill Approved by Florida House of Representatives

The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut unemployment taxes charged to employers as well as benefits paid to the unemployed.

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If the bill, CS/HB 7005, is approved by the Senate, the legislation would adjust the benefit ratio calculation used to compute employer tax rates downward by ten percent. The bill would also significantly expand the definition of disqualifying misconduct and give employers added authority to challenge claims.

The legislation would maintain the current weekly maximum payment of $275, but cut the maximum benefit period from 26 to 20 weeks. Duration of benefits would be tied to the state unemployment rate: the term would be capped at 12 weeks during periods when unemployment stands at 5 percent or less, with an additional week added for each 0.5 percent increase in the unemployment rate up to 9 percent. In addition, applicants would have to undergo a skills review and show proof that they are actively seeking work to receive benefits.

The bill received unanimous Republican support. “Florida’s current unemployment compensation system is broken,” said Representative Steve Precourt. “The system was never designed for the severity of the current economic downturn, and this has caused an unsustainable rise in payments to unemployed workers through large, automatic increases in the employer-paid taxes that fund the benefits.”

Governor Rick Scott applauded the legislation, saying, “The House’s legislation reduces taxes on Florida businesses and ensures that we have the necessary safety net for those who are out of work. By linking the number of weeks a person can receive benefits to the state’s unemployment levels, we are creating an environment for Florida’s job creators to get the state back to work.”

On the other hand, Democratic representatives voted unanimously against the bill. In a statement, Representative Luis Garcia expressed discontent over the bill. “I think this is pretty much what former President George Bush called voodoo economics.” Representative Garcia said. “If we are going to pass the savings to merchants, let’s do it in a more direct way.”

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