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Top Stories from April 30

April 30, 2009

Unemployment Compensation

After long hours of debate, the House of Representatives unanimously passed SB 810 Relating to Unemployment Compensation by Sen. Rudy Garcia (R-Miami).  This legislation addresses the looming insolvency of Florida's unemployment compensation trust fund.   The bill provides the following four measures through which employers' unemployment compensation tax obligations will change:

  • Increasing the taxable wage base upon which unemployment taxes are calculated from $7,000 to $8,500;
  • Permanently increasing the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund trigger thresholds from 3.7% to 4% and 4.7% to 5%; 
  • Reducing the period within which an employer may recoup its tax credits from 4 years to 3 years to better stabilize the fund; and
  • Extending the eligibility of current unemployment recipients through approximately $700 million in federal stimulus funds available from the federal government.

These measures will represent an increase in the average Florida employer's unemployment tax of approximately $35 per employee for small employers with a minimal experience rating. However, the measures are said to be needed to avoid imposition of a forced repayment program from the federal government that would likely result in loss of some or all employer unemployment compensation tax credits and an additional legislative assessment on all employers above the current tax level.

During debate a number of amendments offered by members of the Democratic Party were defeated.  These amendments would have expanded benefits for unemployed workers and would have forced employers to pay even more in exchange for just two additional months of benefits for the unemployed.  AIF and its partners in the business community have worked all session long to come up with a plan that would deal with the insolvency in the unemployment compensation trust fund, while striking a balance as it relates to expanded benefits.

SB 810 will now be sent to the Governor for his approval.

AIF supports the passage of this bill as the best means for Florida's employers to mitigate the increasing levels of unemployment our state is acing and ensure adequacy in funding of the system. We are committed to continuing to work with legislative and agency leaders to develop and implement the least expensive means of addressing the looming insolvency.

Growth Management

Today, the Florida House approved (76-41) SB 360 Relating to Growth Management by Senator Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton). The bill has changed somewhat from its original filing, in that the exemption for projects from both transportation concurrency and the DRI process is now limited to urban service boundary areas of those defined counties and cities. The bill still enjoys broad, although somewhat muted support from large developers. This is because some of the largest projects are beyond the urban service boundaries. Overall, the legislation remains a bill that its sponsors say cannot be amended for fear of losing DCA support.

The bill picked up some minor amendments, including a provision crediting the costs of improvements of certain transportation facilities paid by the developer towards fair share obligations. All of the amendments added were in conformance with agreements between the Governor’s, the Speaker’s and the Senate President’s offices.

Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Heathrow) commended the measure stating that it will help Florida to once again be competitive against neighboring states in growth, and will make the dream of moving to Florida more affordable and attainable.

SB 360 will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

AIF supports this measure as a way to stimulate Florida’s economy through low cost regulatory measures that seek to reduce unnecessary government oversight.