Monday, June 13, 2011

Republicans hit Arizona where it hurts, dismiss session without UI fix

Lawmakers take home pay while cutting off jobless aid to 45,000 Arizonans


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – GOP lawmakers made it harder Monday for unemployed Arizonans to search for jobs by cutting off their unemployment during the recession and closing out a special session with no action.

Both Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic lawmakers supported making the simple change to state law, allowing 45,000 unemployed Arizonans to receive jobless aid already appropriated by the federal government. But Republicans refused and failed to act, making the job search and putting food on the table harder for middle-class Arizona families.

“Everyone wanted to make this fix — the governor wanted this, Democrats wanted this and Arizonans wanted it to help the unemployed during this worldwide recession, not hold them hostage to partisan politics,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “Everyone but Republicans, who made a conscious decision to cut off $3.5 million per week coming into our state’s economy. It is absolutely outrageous and it’s time to hold Republicans accountable.”

Republican lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both chambers (more than enough to pass the fix on their own), had opportunities to make a simple change in state law so nearly 45,000 Arizonans can continue to receive jobless benefits while they search for work — Democrats asked them to make the change in March during the regular session but they refused. And last week, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session just to make the fix, but on Friday, the first day of the session, Republicans again refused, missing a deadline. They even rejected a bill Democrats introduced using Brewer’s own bill language.

“It is disappointing that after four days of the legislature being in session and collecting per diem we have done nothing to create jobs or to help Arizona’s jobless,” said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, who introduced a bill to waive the “per diem” pay this session. “While legislators got a bonus this week for doing nothing, many of Arizona’s jobless will go empty-handed.”

But state lawmakers will take home cash for doing absolutely nothing — they earn $35 per diem if they live in Maricopa County and $60 per diem for living outside of Maricopa County. The amount collected per diem in this session by out-of-county representatives — $240 — is more than one week of unemployment insurance payment.

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. The fix would keep nearly $3.5 million a week flowing into the Arizona economy.

Even Brewer said this in a press release Friday: “…you don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need. That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel…get to work. The people of Arizona, your constituents, are counting on it.”

But Republican lawmakers failed.

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