Missouri Unemployment Insurance Veto Closer To Override

By John Celock

By the bare minimum vote, the Republican-controlled Missouri House of Representatives voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of changes to the state’s unemployment insurance program.

The House’s action is the first step by the Legislature to override Nixon’s veto of legislation that would cap unemployment insurance in the state to 13 weeks if the state’s unemployment rate drops below six percent. The bill would allow a return to the state’s current 20 week limit if unemployment rises to nine percent statewide. Supporters of the bill said it is needed to grow the economy, while opponents said it will hurt the unemployed and give Missouri the lowest unemployment insurance plan in the nation.

The House voted 109-53 to override Nixon.

“Don’t take us to be the most restrictive and least generous state in the country,” one lawmaker argued against overriding Nixon’s veto.

The lawmaker said that many Republican leaning states in the country have unemployment capped at 26 weeks and it has worked in those states. Among those he cited were Alaska, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

“They all make it work at 26,” he said. “We want to take people who are unemployment and want to work and kick them off.”

Nixon vetoed the bill saying that it would hurt those who are job seeking. Last year, the House failed to override Nixon’s veto of a similar bill.

Supporters of the measure argued that the bill would help the unemployment system in the long run, since it would have lessened the amount of money spent long term. They argued that those on unemployment would be more likely to search for a job if they knew the benefits were running out in 13 weeks, saying their study of the issue showed that most on unemployment look harder for work towards the end of the benefits period.

“When unemployment benefits are shorter that doesn’t mean you are kicking people to the curb, it means people will work harder to find a job,” one lawmaker said.

Supporters said that businesses should not have to be paying more into the system and that the less paid in will help those businesses create new jobs. One supporter argued that those in seasonal jobs should plan ahead for the times they are not receiving a pay check instead of using unemployment.

A legislator from Cape Girardeau argued that she and her family own a small business and they found that during the recession people turned down job offers from her company saying they would earn more from unemployment and food stamps.

“My husband, son and are some of those ‘evil employers.’ We never thought of ourselves that way,” she said. “We have a land development company. During times that are slow, including the housing crisis, we were still lucky to be building. My son would call people he knew to ask if they wanted to work for them. He could not find people who would work for them because they said I am making unemployment and getting food stamps and making more than I can working. Plus they said they could hunt and fish. This bill makes sense for people like us. We want to hire more people.”

Opponents of the bill argued that the bill would hurt Missouri residents year round, including those in seasonal jobs. One lawmaker from St. Louis said that economics have determined that 100 percent employment is unlikely to happen since there will be a cap on how many jobs the economy can establish. He said that this would mean people would be receiving unemployment at periods.

He noted that the state government cannot create full employment in Missouri.

“No one is considering full employment, that no matter what we do here we cannot get to zero,” he said.