State lawmakers approve steep cuts to unemployment benefits
RALEIGH, Jan 31, 2013 (The Fayetteville Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A legislative committee this morning passed a bill that makes steep cuts to unemployment benefits for laid-off workers in an effort to prevent steep increases in the unemployment taxes that businesses pay.
The legislation was heard this morning by the state House Finance Committee. It passed 23-13 along party lines. Republicans supported the bill and Democrats voted in opposition.
The changes are intended to pay down a $2.5 billion debt that the North Carolina's unemployment insurance program has built up as it provided benefits to people who lost their jobs during the recession.
There has been discussion of cutting the maximum payment that a worker can get from $535, which is currently available to some workers, to $350 per week.
The debt grew out of decisions the legislature made in the 1990s, plus the heavy load the recession imposed on the state.
The unemployment insurance program is supposed to have money saved up to get the state through time periods when unemployment rises. But over the years, lawmakers felt that unemployment taxes were unnecessarily high. The taxes were lowered, the fund shrank, and when the recession hit, the state had to start borrowing in order to continue paying laid-off workers the money they were entitled to get while they searched for new jobs.
The debate can be heard at ncleg.net. Click on "audio" at the top of the page and click on "Finance Committee Room (Room 544)."
Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3512.
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