Stimulus Unemployment Update: TX and AZ legislature move on changes for funding…

AZ Capitol Times:

The Senate suspended rules April 20 to consider amending two bills to ensure that Arizona collects federal stimulus money for Medicaid programs and for extended unemployment benefits.

Today, the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to hear the strike-everything amendments to S1102 and S1322. The plan is to pass the measures this week. Both bills contain an emergency clause and would require a supermajority to pass…

…S1322, meanwhile, would allow Arizonans to receive extended unemployment benefits at no cost to the state through the end of the year. …the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made several temporary changes to the extended unemployment benefits program to say the federal government will pay 100 percent of the program’s cost – instead of the usual 50 percent.

First, though, the state must change statute to reflect that the federal government will cover 100 percent of the program’s cost through the end of 2009. Other technical changes also must be made.

Existing state statute provides for a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits if certain “trigger points” are met based on unemployment factors in the labor market.

Department of Economic Security spokeswoman Liz Barker said the trigger points have never been reached. It is unlikely they will be reached in the current economic downturn without statutory changes, she said.

TX: News-Journal.com:

Senators just voted 19-11 for Sen. Kevin Eltife’s bill to expand the state’s unemployment insurance program in order to draw down $555 million in federal stimulus dollars. The bill would ignore Gov. Rick Perry’s wish that the state not receive the stimulus dollars for unemployment…

…Eltife said the federal dollars will cover the cost of changes to the program for nine years and result in the state borrowing less money to keep the state’s unemployment trust fund afloat.

Perry has said he thinks the current unemployment program in Texas works just fine, and that increasing the benefits will increase unemployment taxes on businesses once the federal money runs out….

April 21, 2009. Tags: , , , , . Economy, Labor Department, Politics, Taxes, Uncategorized, Unemployment Statistics. Comments off.

Stimulus Update: AZ GOP legislators show tough love..and TX rejects UE funds….

This may sound harsh, and it is, (but I am a Hobbesian not a Locke follower, so I expect it to be brutal, LOL) and I will feel the pain, but it is true, and if we do not want to wind up like CA, this is where we are going to have to go..we simply cannot afford to give unemployment to Part Time workers or to workers who quit when their spouse relocates..we cannot keep adding people to programs who do not pay into the system, it is simply unsustainable as demonstrated perfectly by CA right next door…

You cannot escape the pain of the Great Recession by adding new safety net programs, you simply delay the pain, we will lose more jobs if we add UE taxes on employers so we can give new benefits..Gov Perry is right. If Tucson wants to pay for these programs, they can Go to Cali, to Cali to Cali…sing it LL…

An Op-Ed from a Tucson Citizen in the paper of the same name, this citizen wants to expand the safety net as a matter of logic :

I guess that’s why I’ve had difficulty understanding the seeming indifference of Republicans in our state Legislature to the effect of the budget cuts they’re making. I don’t get their stubborn refusal to consider a temporary tax increase – or to even refer the matter to the voters – to preserve basic education, health care and social services.

See, I naively thought that everybody agreed – even those who rail against big government – that times like the ones we’re experiencing now are precisely when government must step in to help its most vulnerable citizens. I thought it was accepted that such times are when government plays its most vital role and does its best work.

No we do not all agree, yes we need the safety net in the post industrial world, but we need it to be sustainable ot the economic collapse we precipitate through our unsustainable actions leads to more loss, the negative cycle again…so, here is the Tough Love our states need to show to get us through the next two years..

…a commentary written by Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, for the March 6 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times.

He outlined the reality of the budget crisis – the state has a $3 billion deficit for fiscal 2010. …

…Harper ended his commentary with a message to those Arizonans who are “underemployed or overexpectant.”

“If you are relying on any services from the state that are not mandated by the federal government, I advise you that those services may end June 30, 2009.

“If you have children that require expensive experimental treatment or therapy that is not provided by the federal government, I advise that the state does not have the money for it after June 30.

“If you have been laid off from your job and are not willing to take a job that is available, unemployment benefits, food stamps and AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) for health care are going to fall short of what you could make by being employed.

“Arizona will not follow the country into socialism. If you feel you need greater assistance and are not able to move to another state, please turn to your local churches and give them the opportunity to show their generosity and love.”

The person who wrote the Op Ed thinks this is mean and harsh and hurtful, she apparently does not understand that economic contraction IS harsh and making bad decisions we cannot afford because we feel bad will make it hurt longer….

That’s right, my fellow Arizonans, get off your lazy, free-loading unemployed butts and start digging some ditches or get out of town.

Sen. Scrooge – oops, I mean Sen. Harper – also argued that the state should reject the federal stimulus money that would allow Arizona to increase the maximum unemployment payment from $240 to $265 per week and extend the benefits to more jobless people.

So is Senator Harper just a mean man as the author suggests? No, he is following a model in which we avoid raising business taxes when we will just be coming out of a recession, when the money runs out two years from now:

“This would cause a tax increase on business to keep the fund stable and makes the provision unworkable,” he wrote.

Yep.

TX – USA Today:

To get the money, states must expand unemployment benefits, such as covering part-time workers who lose their jobs. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he doesn’t want the stimulus money because his state would have to raise taxes on businesses or cut back on benefits once the federal funding runs out.

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March 17, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Economy, Labor Department, Music, Obama Administration, Politics, Taxes, Uncategorized, Unemployment Statistics. 2 comments.

Economic Stimulus: Why states should think twice about accepting the money….AZ to raise taxes so it can accept stimulus funds?…the stimulus paradox of 2009…

Yep. This is why several Governors are considering rejecting some stimulus funds. By accepting the stimulus money for education and social services, the state must promise not to cut those areas not only NOW but LATER.

To keep that promise and not cut those areas once the federal money is gone the state must raise taxes someplace else to pay for all that new social spending….guess where?

Right.

Tucson Citizen:

The money in the federal stimulus package for Arizona is a decidedly mixed blessing. On one hand, it offers a boatload of money to relieve budget-cutting pressures. On the other, it paradoxically makes a tax increase more likely.

According to the Legislature’s budget staff, Arizona is eligible to receive approximately $4 billion in additional federal assistance. But just $1.7 billion is available to fill a $3 billion hole in next year’s general fund budget. And some of that will probably have to be used to fill a reappearing hole in this year’s budget, as revenues continue to plummet.

There are strings attached. For next year, the stimulus would provide $700 million in additional aid to state low-income health care programs, but only if the state doesn’t reduce eligibility….

…K-12 education, the universities and low-income health care are the three largest components of the state’s general fund budget, constituting two-thirds of all its spending.

By limiting the extent to which they could be cut, accepting stimulus funding would put even more pressure on the rest of the state’s programs….

Accepting the federal funds and agreeing to sharply limit cuts in these programs would mean that the one-third of the state budget not so protected would have to be cut roughly in half to achieve an honest balance without a tax increase. Highly unlikely.

Gov. Jan Brewer clearly has weak knees and has already been floating submitting a temporary tax increase to the voters.

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March 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Economy, Finance, Obama Administration, Politics, Uncategorized, Unemployment Statistics. 2 comments.

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