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State Labor Council Wants More Balanced Approach on Unemployment Insurance Fix

By Andrew Calkins January 13, 2011

The Washington State Labor Council has its eye on an unemployment insurance (UI) bill that is being fast-tracked at the governor's request and sponsored by State Rep. Mike Sells (D-38). The Sells' bill would prevent a 36 percent increase in the UI taxes on business scheduled to take effect on Feb. 8th. The bill would tap the state's $2 billion UI trust fund and bring in $98 million in federal funds by modernizing the states UI system to provide benefits for workers who are receiving training in new fields. The bill would permanently keep rates low at a cost of $478 million to the trust fund through 2017, according to the WSLC.

The WSLC agrees with Sells and Gregoire that rates shouldn't rise so sharply, especially during a recession, but the coalition would prefer a more holistic approach that targets relief not only at businesses, but at struggling families as well. WSLC's proposal includes a weekly $15 per child benefit (maximum $50 per week) in addition to lower UI tax rates on business over the next three years. Marshaling a coalition of labor and social groups, the WSLC hopes that the new tax package would target benefits at those who need them most.

According to the WSLC, the children's benefit provision would affect 167,000 Washingtonians and cost the UI trust fund $202 million dollars from 2011-2017. The WSLC wrote in a memo this morning, "[that] the best way to stimulate the state economy is to use our UI Trust Fund to maximize relief and recovery for businesses and for working families."

Rep. Sells, chair of the Labor & Workforce development comittee and a labor ally told PubliCola that as the bill currently stands, there is no child benefit. Sells did not speculate on the fate of the provision during tomorrow's 8 AM hearing.
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