Logjam over Missouri jobless benefits broken
Thursday, April 7, 2011
JEFFERSON CITY -- A logjam over extended unemployment benefits broke this afternoon when Senate Republicans crafted a compromise that aims to cut other federal stimulus spending to send Washington a message about the deficit.
Under the deal, senators agreed to temporarily extend benefits for longtime jobless Missourians by 20 weeks, at an estimated cost to the federal government of $105 million.
As a tradeoff, the Senate intends to eliminate $250 million in already-funded stimulus projects, such as weatherization grants.
Senators also added a new provision, sought by business groups. Missouri employers would pay for 20 weeks instead of 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for future workers.
That would would not affect anyone presently employed or presently drawing unemployment, but in the future, it would help businesses expand, supporters said.
The deal still needs final Senate approval, as well as passage by the House and approval by Gov. Jay Nixon. It was referred to a Senate committee that will review its fiscal impact.
For weeks, four conservative senators have held up the jobless aid to protest out-of-control federal spending. Yesterday, they said they would not advance the bill unless Nixon signed on to their proposed tradeoffs. Nixon remained silent.
Even so, the senators declared victory today.
"I won," said Sen. Jim Lembke. R-Lemay. "My goal from the beginning was to send back as much stimulus money as possible, and that's what we accomplished."
If it becomes law, the bill would restore unemployment benefits to about 10,000 Missourians whose aid was cut off last week because of the filibuster. It also would allow thousands more to draw the extended aid when they exhausted their 79 weeks of benefits this year.
Exactly which stimulus projects would be eliminated remains uncertain.
Nieves, Lembke: It's Up To Governor To Extend Jobless Benefits04/06/2011___________________________________________________________________________________
Republican Senators Brian Nieves (Washington) and Jim Lembke (St. Louis) have held up a vote of lawmakers to extend jobless benefits to nearly 10,000 out-of- work Missourians, but said Wednesday they will step out of the way if Governor Jay Nixon agrees to withdraw recommendations to spend federal stimulus dollars in other areas. The two senators said they presented a plan to Gov. Nixon to prevent more than $300 million in federal stimulus spending.
“Our stance from day one has been that we believe the federal government is overspending, and in fact, spending money they don’t have and must borrow from China,” Lembke said. “We want Missouri to say enough is enough and reduce our reliance on the federal government.”
“But we also understand that while many agree with this principled stance, they do not believe preventing the extension of unemployment benefits for thousands of Missouri families is the place to start,” Nieves added. “That is why we approached the governor and asked him to prevent spending in other areas that don’t directly impact Missouri families. But unfortunately, the governor has said ‘no,’ choosing federal stimulus pet projects over people.”
Nixon did not specifically respond to the senators' comments, but said in a statement he would continue to get the bill to a vote.
The unemployment benefits bill could be voted on in the Senate Thursday. It has been up for vote three previous times, but faced a filibuster each time.
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