Tallahassee, FL - A group of fed-up unemployed Floridians stormed the state capitol Thursday. Deanna Wade traveled from South Florida to tell lawmakers to leave job seekers alone.
“If you don’t have that skill, you can’t have a job,” said Wade.
The group was stirred to action by proposed changes that would shorten the number of weeks the state would pay benefits from 26 to 20, make it harder for laid off workers to qualify and require volunteer service in exchange for weekly checks.
“Just shortening the weeks or things like that when there are no real jobs on the other end of that pipeline would really put people in jeopardy,” said Badili Jones with Florida New Majority.
The changes are being billed as a jobs creator, because they would lower business taxes.
The unemployment reform legislation comes as Governor Rick Scott lays off 15 people from the Department of Corrections and calls for another 86-hundred state jobs to be eliminated.
But Scott says handing out pink slips to state workers will help create private sector jobs.
To prove his point, Scott announced 244 new science jobs being created in Tallahassee.
“A lot of things like this are going to happen across the state,” said Scott.
At the center of the debate is a bill that comes due this fall. Florida has borrowed two billion dollars to pay unemployment claims. Unless the legislature takes action, business taxes will go up to pay the money back.
The unemployment reform legislation passed through a house committee this afternoon, on a seven to four vote.
The federal government may offer a helping hand to Florida’s unemployed, but Governor Rick Scott plans to slap it away. President Obama is planning to allow Florida to keep half a billion dollars of the two billion the state has borrowed to pay the unemployed. The catch is that Florida would have to raise its business tax in 2014. Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos says the interest on the money already borrowed is concerning, but he wants to take a look at the long term picture before he sets a senate agenda on the proposal.
“Interest payments cripple families and interest payments can cripple the state if we are not careful and we want to find a long term solution,” said Haridopolos.
The president’s plan for the unemployed will be released next week as part of his 2012 spending plan.