Governor's jobless-benefit plan much better than labor's dependents' benefit
The Seattle Times editorial board endorses the original House Bill 1091, proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, and not the amended version with dependents' benefits, proposed by organized labor.
A STATE budget crisis is not the time for the Legislature to think up new ways to spend public money. Still, that is what some of them do, as if money were no problem.
Last week, the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted out a bill with the not-so-brilliant idea of a jobless benefit for dependent kids. Under House Bill 1091, the unemployment benefit would be increased by $15 a week for each dependent child or teenager younger than 19 or dependent student younger than 26.
The extra benefit would be capped at $50 a week. A federal grant would fund it for about three years. After the grant ran out, the law would become a new burden on employers, raising the cost of creating a job in Washington.
This is a poor time to raise the cost of creating a job, even if the pinch is not felt right away. Business thinks ahead, and invests based on what it sees coming — and any new burdens laid directly upon payrolls will discourage investment in Washington.
A dependents' benefit also discards the long-held principle that unemployment pay is insurance, not welfare. The benefit is funded by a tax on workers' pay, not on how many children they have. The benefits should be paid on the same principle.
The proposed benefit, which is being promoted by organized labor, has been put in place of the proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Her proposal is to enhance unemployment benefits for laid-off workers who are in training for a career and holding down a part-time job at the same time.
Either proposal qualifies the state for a $98 million federal grant. But the proposals are very different.
Labor's proposal costs more, chewing through the $98 million quicker. Still, it is simply a proposal to increase a social benefit. It is consumed; there is no investment in it.
The governor's proposal is an investment in a worker. By keeping a displaced worker in training and attached to the work force at the same time, her proposal offers the promise of long-term increase in the worker's earning power and the state's economy.
The Legislature should support the governor's proposal, and not the dependents' benefit.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.