Statement of Senator Rodney Ellis on Unemployment Insurance Reform Efforts
(Austin) — Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today released the following statement regarding unemployment insurance reform efforts in Texas:
"The recession has hit Texas. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Texas economy will lose between 180,000 to 300,000 jobs in 2009, and the unemployment rate is expected to rise from 6 to 8.2 percent. Texas families are hurting and are worried about how they are going to keep their homes and pay their bills. They want help and they want action, but all they're getting from Austin is political posturing.
"President Obama's Economic Recovery Act offers $556 million to Texas to help those Texans who have lost their job or are in danger of soon losing it. Unfortunately, Governor Perry has said he will reject that funding simply because we would have to make small changes to our unemployment insurance system. This is the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish. I doubt Texans think sending a half-billion of our tax dollars to other states while doing nothing to save the state's faltering unemployment trust fund is the best way to pull ourselves from this recession.
"In addition, if Texas rejects that money, businesses in our state will suffer the consequences. Should Texas fail to act, by September 2009 our unemployment trust fund could be $749 million below the floor. Two things happen then: an automatic 'deficit tax' will be triggered on nearly all businesses to make up the shortfall; and, funding could end for important economic development programs.
"As this economic storm worsens, now is the time to act, not play politics. I applaud Texas AFL-CIO, USW and the Center for Public Policy Priorities for continuing to lead on this issue and work to reform the unemployment insurance system to help workers and the businesses who employ them."