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Unemployment Compensation Bill Debate Renewed With New Proposal

"The State of Ohio"
Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute; Amy Hanauer with Policy Matters Ohio

Lawmakers are revisiting one of the most controversial bills still floating in the General Assembly – a bill to shore up the fund that pays benefits to unemployed workers. And one of the groups critical of the original proposal from House Republicans has come out with their own plan. 

The original proposal to change the unemployment compensation fund and make it solvent would’ve cut the amount of weeks a laid-off worker could receive benefits from 26 weeks to 12.

The bill wasn’t getting a lot of traction and stalled before lawmakers went on break. Now a joint committee with Senate and House members is looking for more public input for a plan that might be able to make it to the governor’s desk during the lame duck session.

The left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio introduced a plan that would ask employees to pay into the fund 15 cents for every $100 earned – which it says would cost a worker making $40,000 a year less than a dollar a week. But as the group’s Amy Hanauer explains, employers would have to make up the difference.

“They would pay more than they are now and they very well should. I mean that’s the reason that our fund is insolvent because Greg and others like him have advocated for employer taxes to be kept so much lower than in other states,” said Hanauer.

Hanauer was debating Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, a conservative research group. He says it’s time to completely rethink the way the state handles unemployment benefits.

“We think shifting this whole narrative is really important so that we’re not just talking about building a better mousetrap so to speak let’s talk about something that’s really better for everyone,” Lawson said. 

Lawson suggests an idea that’s been around for a while but hasn’t gotten much traction - creating an individual account for each employee and still require payments from employers and employees.

At the height of the recession Ohio borrowed as much as $3.4 billion dollars from the U.S. government to shore up a dwindling unemployment compensation fund.

The state just paid off the rest of its debt to the feds this month.

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