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February 9, 2010

As we reported last week, the House Economic Development and Community Affairs Policy Council unveiled legislation to immediately relieve most Florida employers from this exorbitantly increased tax bill this year. Today, that legislation was unanimously approved by that House committee.

This bill’s passage early in the legislative session is absolutely critical to the survival of many Florida businesses. Florida employers have been wrestling with this issue over the past few weeks to find a way to because the costs of the unemployment system are simply too high and the increases too sudden for businesses to bear. AIF has responded to this alarm across the state and has worked diligently with our state’s legislative and executive leaders to develop a way to lower this tax burden at this critical time in our state’s economic condition.

Representative Jennifer Carroll (R-Jacksonville) explained the proposal which contains the following tax saving components:

  • Reduces the amount of each employee’s wages upon which the employer pays the UC tax  – from $8,500 back down to $7,000 for 2010 and 2011.
  • Establishes a quarterly payment plan for 2010 and 2011 that lets employers spread out their unemployment compensation payments over the whole year without normal application of penalties or interest. 
  • Eliminate all elements of the rate calculations in current law that increase the tax for purposes of replenishing the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund balance for 2010 and 2011.
  • Allows unemployed Floridians to receive additional extended unemployment benefits funded by the federal government.

Today’s victory was not without a challenge, however. Representative Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) offered an unfriendly amendment that would have expanded the number of people who receive unemployment benefits to include those who leave available jobs for personal reasons that are not related to the employer. In the long run, this amendment would have increased the costs to Florida businesses – prohibiting them from expanding their companies and creating new jobs. After hearing the objection of the business community, Representative Thompson withdrew the amendment.

The bill passed today’s council by a unanimous vote. The bill will next be heard by the House Finance and Tax Council.

AIF remains committed to responsible economic policy for Florida’s unemployment compensation system at tax levels that Florida employers can afford to pay while maintaining and expanding their businesses.  The high tax rates current law presents could lead many companies to reduce their workforce, which is contrary to the whole point of funding the unemployment system. 

AIF applauds Chairman Dave Murzin (R-Pensacola), Representative Carroll and the House Council today for approving a plan today that will immediately lower the tax burden for Florida employers this year as we weather this economic storm and grow our business into the future.