OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire urged legislators to move quickly on proposals to cancel planned increases in unemployment insurance taxes, saying she needs a bill in two weeks.
At a press conference this morning, Gregoire repeated a call for legislators to keep rate hikes that businesses face from taking effect. Two bills introduced at her request, one in the House and one in the Senate, would accomplish that, but only if one passes and is signed by Feb. 8. After that date, current state law requires the rates to go up, by as much as 50 percent for some companies.
“The rate hike is going to take a bite out of our recovery,” she said.
The proposals would lower unemployment insurance taxes for some 80,000 small businesses, and reduce the tax bite by a total of about $300 million this year, Gregoire said.
The Legislature should wait on another issue surrounding unemployment insurance, which involves changing benefits for laid-off workers to qualilfy for some $98 million in federal funds, she argued. Gregoire has proposed using the money to expand training benefits for the unemployed so they can study new occupations. The State Labor Council wants the money to be used to increase payments to unemployed workers with dependents, providing them with an extra $15 per week per child, up to a maximum of $50 per week.
“We can have that debate another day,” she said.