A bill that authorizes the state to use federal funds to extend unemployment insurance benefits by 13-weeks has hit a roadblock in the Legislature. The Assembly approved the bill Wednesday night, but only after adopting an amendment reversing changes made in the Senate earlier this week.
The Senate had altered the bill to repeal a one-week delay in the start of benefits, which had been included in the state budget earlier this summer. Republicans say the delay could save the state up to $51 million. However, Democrats say it cuts off vital support for the unemployed at a time when it’s needed most.
Republicans says the one week delay is needed because of a growing deficit in the fund used to pay unemployment insurance benefits. State Representative Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) says that hole is approaching $1.3 billion, and the savings could help the state move towards getting it solvent again.
However, the disagreement puts the future of the bill in jeopardy. With six Senate Republicans facing recall elections in August, state Representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) argued the chamber does not have the votes to pass the bill unless it ends the delay in benefits. She accused Assembly Republicans of killing the extension by making the change.
A spokesman for the Senate Republican leader would not say if they will be back on the floor today to approve the change made in the Assembly, meaning final passage could be pushed off indefinitely.