Defiant: Gibbons against jobless benefits from stimulus
March 18, 2009
CARSON CITY ” Nevada lawmakers said Wednesday that if Gov. Jim Gibbons won’t accept federal stimulus funds for jobless benefits, they will.
By accepting the stimulus funding, the state could extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks to over 13,000 Nevadans, a benefit of $114 million. The measure also would bring in $77 million to extend benefits to over 4,000 Nevadans who currently don’t qualify, such as minimum-wage and construction workers.
“We have an opportunity with the federal economic stimulus package to alleviate the hardship on the one out of every 10 Nevadans who are unemployed,” Buckley said during a joint Senate-Assembly budget hearing on AB469 and ACR17, which facilitate receipt of the stimulus funds.
“Why wouldn’t we want to get $77 million? It pays for itself. We get the stimulus in economy, we get relief to unemployed, and then we have the ability in future years to examine whether it still makes sense for our state.”
Lawmakers were told the state’s unemployment trust fund likely will be depleted by the end of 2009, and may have a deficit of $750 million by the end of 2010, so the state will have to borrow money. In one Nevada county, unemployment has passed 15 percent.
Buckley said that while Gibbons could veto AB469 he wouldn’t have that option with ACR17, which would only have to be approved by the Senate and Assembly and wouldn’t go to the governor.
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Gibbons has said repeatedly that he would reject part of the federal stimulus funds that would commit Nevada to increased spending or expanded programs. However, the congressional act that authorized the funds allows for acceptance either by a governor or state legislatures.
Nobody spoke against the measures, which received wide support from the business community, including the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
Even though businesses may have to pay higher unemployment insurance premiums, construction industry representatives supported the plan, saying they wanted to keep constructions workers in the state.
Labor representatives supporting the measures included state AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson, who said, “If you don’t accept this money, you’re going to be dealing with a catastrophe on your own, without the help of the federal government.”
“I don’t view this as a Republican issue or Democratic issue, I don’t think it’s an employer or employee issue, I view this as the right thing to do for your constituents,” Thompson said, adding that unemployment in the construction industry has gone as high as 50 percent and conditions will only get worse as current major projects are completed.
Pilar Weiss, representing Culinary Workers Union Local 266, also backed the bill, saying that many workers in her industry were being laid off or facing reduced hours.