Editorial: Don't kick the can, just do it
The state’s unemployment fund is facing a $184 million deficit by the end of 2011. That’s huge, and can’t be solved by a single proposal. Rather, a multi-pronged approach that will require the unemployed to do with less and employers to pay more is the only way a deficit of this size will be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, the state Legislature may again postpone action until the following session because the answers are too politically hot to tackle.
That’s a travesty. It is an issue on the front burner for the past several years, yet our elected officials have simply failed to do their job.
The answers aren’t difficult. It is simple math. Because of the recession, the reserve funds were quickly depleted this year. To keep the fund solvent this year, the Douglas administration had to borrow $58 million from the federal government. If more taxes aren’t raised or benefits reduced by the end of 2011, the deficit will increase by another $130 million or so. Vermonters will pay interest to the federal government, making it ever more difficult to balance this fund and rebuild its reserve. But there’s still time to act.
A bill in the Senate Committee on Economic Development would save more than $100 million in reduced benefits over four years. How? It would implement a one-week waiting period for claimants, reduce benefits for seasonal unemployment and raise the number of quarters the state uses to calculate benefits; and it would double over four years the taxable wage base for employers, therefore greatly increasing the amount businesses would pay into the system.
The bill has the governor’s support. Another year of delay only means Vermont businesses and those who are unemployed will have to sacrifice even more in the years ahead. Call your legislators this week and tell them not to kick this can down the road any longer. It’s time to call the question on this issue and get the job done.