Make us your home page
Instagram

Lawmakers swiftly delay hike in Florida unemployment compensation tax

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers gave sweeping approval Tuesday to a measure that delays a steep unemployment compensation tax increase for businesses.

The bailout will force Florida to borrow an additional $4.3 billion from the federal government to cover benefits for the state's growing number of unemployed workers.

It's a tradeoff the Republican-dominated Legislature is willing to accept, given dire predictions from the business community about how the unemployment tax increase would only lead to more pink slips.

"The business community has their tax bills on their desks right now," said Sen. Rudy Garcia, R-Hialeah, the Senate sponsor.

The bill unanimously passed the House and Senate, and Gov. Charlie Crist signed it into law just before his State of the State speech. It's the first of many initiatives lawmakers will consider this year to help boost the state's dismal economy.

"There is no better message to send to our fellow Floridians on the opening day," Crist said in a statement.

Democrats initially wanted to expand unemployment eligibility to tap an additional $440 million in federal dollars. But to avoid delaying the bill, they ceded their argument that the bill didn't address the larger problem.

"This is not going to fix the problem," acknowledged Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West. "This is going to delay the fix."

Republicans helped ease Democrats' concerns by including a provision to extend unemployment benefits for up to eight weeks, a move that will help about 20,000 workers.

A year ago, the unemployment compensation fund held $1.3 billion, but it was emptied by August as the state's jobless rate rose to the current 11.8 percent.

Since then, the state has borrowed about $250 million a month to pay benefits — a total now topping $1.2 billion.

Anticipating the deficit, Florida lawmakers passed legislation in 2009 to keep the fund solvent by increasing the unemployment taxes paid by Florida's 474,000 employers.

The rate charged to the majority of employers was expected to climb from $8.40 a worker to $100.30 a worker, a 12-fold increase.

But under the current bill, these businesses will face a $25.20 per-worker cost. The maximum rate will remain $378 per worker.

In borrowing the money, the state will owe approximately $658 million in interest. The first payment is due in September 2011, and lawmakers said businesses will pay increased assessments to cover the cost.

"The train is coming," Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, said of the interest payment. "But this gives some predictability to the business cycle so business can plan to get hit by the train."

Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, put the numbers into context in talking about Jeff Miller, a tool supplier in Hillsborough.

"He's a man who is desperate to save his business. He's laid off everybody he could lay off, he turned off the air and heat and he said there was not another dime he could squeeze out," Storms said. "There is nothing more important (than this bill) to small-business men and women across the state who are barely hanging on."

Times/Herald staff writer Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report. John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Lawmakers swiftly delay hike in Florida unemployment compensation tax 03/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 9:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation

    Business

    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion

    National

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]