Just one day prior to the start of this year’s legislative session, House Democratic Minority Leader Paul Thissen sent a letter to Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt regarding extending unemployment benefits to those who have been laid off from jobs in the Iron Range. Iron Range issues are typically politically charged, but extending unemployment benefits to former employees of Minnesota’s mining industry has seen some widespread bipartisan support, Thissen notes in the letter.
Thissen is calling for action on day one of the legislative session, and offers two ways the parties can work together to do this. The first proposal includes a “one-time credit of $272 million.” Thissen argues that this credit would mean that employers will not face higher taxes and premiums in times of economic downturns.
The second proposal is that the DFL and GOP can work together on DEED’s “long view proposal” that gives employers “ongoing credits if the UI Trust Fund [Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund] reaches 4% above the Average High Cost Multiple of 1.0 starting in 2017.” Thissen claims this proposal also has bi-partisan support.
Representative Bob Gunther (District 23A), Chairman of the Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee tells Alpha News that “Minnesota has extended unemployment more times than any other state.” He added that the federal government’s failure to hold China accountable for their trade of steel and other products has hurt greater Minnesota employers, costing companies jobs and money.
Thissen’s letter references bipartisan efforts in 2013 to pass similar bills, and offers his hopes that Speaker Daudt will make good on his promise “that the legislature ought to move forward on the items that we can agree upon.” Thissen finishes the letter by stating, “I am confident that we can work together to pass an uncontroversial bill that extends UI benefits for workers and their families in northeastern Minnesota.”
It is uncertain whether a comprehensive bill will be passed by both legislative bodies to extend unemployment insurance benefits for laid off iron range workers. But one thing is certain, any bill costing the state $272 million will likely fan the flames of controversy. To stay up to date on the issue, make sure to subscribe to Alpha News.
Majority Leader Thissen’s letter can be viewed here.