By: Senator Thom Goolsby
January 31, 2013
The screaming left-wingers never stop complaining. Their latest squawking is about a reasonable plan to pay off the state’s $2.5 billion unemployment insurance debt owed to the federal government.
Unnamed editorial writers at liberal media outlets are lining up to bash Republicans for their fiscal responsibility. As is typical, the editorialists are long on opinions and short on facts.
As they decry any reductions in payouts, the “nabobs of negativity” conveniently leave out the fact that these changes will only affect future unemployed workers in an economy that is in recovery mode.
The leftist editorial writers also omit the fact that North Carolina pays out significantly more money in benefits than any other state in the Southeast. The current weekly benefit paid by North Carolina is a maximum of $525. By comparison, here are the top benefits in surrounding states: Georgia $330, South Carolina $326, Tennessee $275, Virginia $378. It’s no wonder that unemployed individuals currently move to North Carolina in order to file for benefits.
The Revenue Laws Study Committee’s new plan sets the maximum rate at $350. Far from impoverishing future unemployed citizens, this amount will make North Carolina the second highest paying state (instead of the first) in the Southeast.
The plan also calls for reducing the maximum duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 12-20 weeks, depending on economic conditions. If conditions are good and jobs are plentiful, the benefits will be cut back to 12 weeks. If the economy worsens, benefits can be extended to a full 20 weeks. Again, this adjustment compares favorably with the benefits provided in other Southeastern states.
Those bashing the GOP plan also ignore the significant increases in unemployment insurance rates employers will have to pay over the next few years in order to pay off the debt early. Rates will increase on businesses $21 every six months to a high of just over $120 per employee. This will not be an easy cost for employers to bear. However, it is a far cry from the automatic increases required by the federal plan if we take no action.
Washington’s mandate would jack up rates to over $180 per employee. Further, under the GOP plan the $2.5 billion debt will be paid back by 2015. North Carolina taxpayers made a $79 million interest payment on the debt in 2011 and another $83 million payment in 2012, but the federal plan would cause our state to suffer under the crushing weight of the debt until 2018.
Lastly, the liberals never mention how we came to this sorry state of affairs. The reason is a simple one: the prior masters of the General Assembly, the Democrats, never planned ahead. Rather than establish a significant rainy day fund, the Dems were happy to spend all the money in the budget and hope that it would never rain. They were foolishly wrong and we are now paying the price for their shortsightedness. The Republican plan does not repeat the Democrats’ “spend-it-all” mantra. It does just the opposite – it places over $1 billion in a rainy day fund for future needs.
The actual facts regarding the proposed Republican plan shed a completely different light on the Chicken Little views expressed by left-wing editorialists. It was President John Adams who said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” North Carolina must act to pay off this debt and the GOP plan is the only responsible step forward.
Thom Goolsby is a state senator, practicing attorney and law professor. He serves on the Finance, Commerce and Revenue Laws Study Committees in the N.C. Senate.