Floridians seemingly have grown accustomed to being the head on the nail, repeatedly hammered by heavy handed and poorly regulated property insurance premiums, the economic recession, the housing market collapse and rising unemployment. Meanwhile, not much attention to their plight is paid from their elected state officials.
The Florida Legislature currently stands set to reject $444 Million dollars in federal stimulus money. Now, just days from the end of the legislative session, Florida lawmakers have refused to move a bill to expand unemployment eligibility in order to accept $444 million in federal stimulus aid. The Republican controlled legislature will not pass changes to the current law extending unemployment eligibility, in order to accept $444 million in federal stimulus aid.
Other Southern Republicans have raised protests about the unemployment benefits, saying that expansion could eventually require them to raise taxes. But Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida said he supported changing the law to draw the extra federal money. “I think taking it is important,” Mr. Crist said. “I know the people need it, especially those who may be facing unemployment. I wish it would be reviewed again.” Extended unemployment benefits are a lifeline for many of the unemployed. The current unemployment rate statewide is 9.7%, up from 7.3% in November. The state’s unemployment trust fund is expected to run out of money in August. State officials plan to ask for a federal loan for the fund, and the Legislature is moving ahead with a bill that would increase unemployment taxes on businesses.
Republican legislators say that they do not want to increase the burden on Florida’s unemployment trust fund when it is running out of money. Some statewide business groups, already bracing for an expected increase in unemployment taxes, also objected to the changes. This ignores the immediate plight of the unemployed citizens, in order to protect against a possible, eventual rise in unemployment taxes assessed to individual businesses. “The unemployed in Florida are being denied their share of the economic stimulus pie,” said United States Representative Kendrick B. Meek, Democrat of Miami, who accused the Legislature of putting “ideology over the people of Florida in their time of need.”
Lawmakers are expected to pass a measure that would allow them to use $700 million in stimulus money to extend unemployment benefits for the rest of the year to 250,000 people whose benefits would otherwise expire. But they have been unwilling to make more changes, like offering benefits to those who left work because of domestic violence or the relocation of a spouse.
Seems to many of us that the ideologues have run out of working ideas for the rest of the voters.