published Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Democrats urge Haslam, GOP to act on jobless benefits

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester on Tuesday urged Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and GOP lawmakers to “act responsibly” and support legislation aimed at reinstating federal jobless benefits for thousands of Tennesseans.

“Partisan politics shouldn’t threaten the economic future of 28,000 Tennesseans who can’t find work due to a recession that was no fault of their own,” Forrester said in a statement.

Forrester charged that Haslam and legislative Republicans “haven’t lived up to their promise to create jobs, and now their negligence is jeopardizing critical financial support that is keeping children fed, bills paid and families out of foreclosure.”

Legislative Democrats are pushing last-minute legislation that seeks to restore 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed Tennesseans.

They lost those benefits April 16 after the state failed to act and make state law comply with a new federal requirement after the federal extended benefit program was renewed.

State officials have tried to shift blame to the federal Department of Labor, saying they were advised the state was fine and needed to take no action.

Restoring benefits would bring an additional $57.7 million in federal funds for workers formerly employed in the private sector.

But Republicans, including Haslam, have questioned the financial impact on state and local governments as well as some public hospitals and other nonprofits, which must pay up to $275 a week for the long-term unemployed.

Backdating the benefits to April and extending them to the end of December, when the additional federal funding runs out, would cost state and local governments about $2.8 million, according to the latest state Department of Labor and Workforce Development estimates.

Haslam has two questions

Earlier in the day, Haslam told The Associated Press that he has “two big questions” about the legislation.

“One is: Exactly how much would it cost us? And No. 2 is: Who would be covered?” Haslam asked. “The legislation as it’s covered now, there’s some disagreement about when people were triggered out of the program, who would be covered by that?”

He said he has asked “for that to be cleared up today so we all know exactly what it’s costing us and who would be covered, because there’s a little bit of a disagreement about that.”

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a libertarian-style advocacy group, urged Haslam not to act.

“While it is touted as a measure to ‘protect’ the unemployed, this proposal is bad for everyone,” said TCPR President Justin Owen in a news release. “It strips taxpayers of an additional $60 million that our state and federal government don’t have to spend.”

“It also harms the very unemployed who are stuck in a rut. We need to be throwing them a rope, not dumping buckets of water on them,” he said.

But Mary Mancini with Tennessee Citizen Action, a left-of-center advocacy group, said the “hard-working people of Tennessee are our most valuable resource.”

“We really should go ahead and invest in them during this difficult time,” she said. “There is a way to fix this. It doesn’t matter who made the mistake and why. We should fix it as soon as possible.”

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
eastoftheridge said...

To Justin Owen, President, Tennessee Center for Policy Research: PLEASE DO THROW ME THAT ROPE!! Perhaps a nice percentage of your salary would do nicely. To Marcy Mancini, Director, Tennessee Citizen Action: Thank you for your compassion and support of the thousand of long term unemployed Tennesseans!! To the rest of you naysayer Republicans who want to throw the long term unemployed off your ship: The middle finger of my right hand is thrown up in greetings to ya!!!! Have a nice day!!

May 18, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.
MagWildwood said...

And here you have it, folks; the entitlement mentality that has created a large underclass over the decades. The reason America is in debt up to it's eyeballs, and the reason government is ever-so-slowly taking over every aspect of our society. 'Eastoftheridge' believes that since they are unemployed, other people owe them a part of their salary. Wow. --No doubt, being laid off from your job is one of the toughest things life can dole out to a person; however, the victim, entitlement mentality does not serve anyone and makes the situation worse. It is slowing destroying our families, our society and this country.

May 18, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.
eastoftheridge said...

Yea yea yea MagWildwood, what has created a large underclass in recent years is NOT entitlement mentality. Thank you for your lack of compassion, what goes around comes back around....TEN FOLD!

May 18, 2011 at 5:23 p.m.
mistycat said...

Good Grief MagWild, how ridiculous! I think it was clear what East was trying to say. The fact that you took that statement literally shows you jumped on a chance to rag about entitlements. We aren't talking about welfare or food stamps here, although, you can count on the numbers increasing from the unemployed who were cut off. A question for you, what makes an American living in Tennesee entitled to any less unemployment benefits than any other American? The Tennessee Government in charge perhaps? Other states citizens are continuing to recieve benefits. How American.

May 18, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
mistycat said...

And you are so right derf! In the words of Bill Haslam: "Thats What Matters Now"

May 18, 2011 at 5:41 p.m.
dmk37363 said...

We need to put these special interest shills out of office. This is just another giveaway to business that lines their pocket by reducing wages. Lay an employee off, offer them a similar job at 75% of former pay. The Tennessee state government is truly a Parliament of whores!

May 13, 2012 at 10:40 a.m.
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