Tillis & Mark Harris Say They Would Have Opposed Senate Vote To Extend Unemployment Insurance
Hagan Continues To Fight For Much Needed Assistance For North Carolina’s Unemployed Workers
It’s no secret that when it comes to the economy, North Carolina Republican Senate hopefuls are solidly on the side of Washington special interests and the Tea Party and against the middle class and working people in North Carolina. Yesterday, Thom Tillis and Mark Harris showed nothing but disdain for North Carolina workers who are looking for a job when they each admitted they would have opposed even debating an extension of unemployment insurance for North Carolinians looking for work.
The reckless and irresponsible Republican agenda implemented under Tillis’ leadership in Raleigh has already caused long-term jobless insurance to expire for 170,000 North Carolinians who have been looking for work, cutting $780 million in benefits for North Carolina’s economy and denying families the crucial relief they need. Adding insult to injury, Tillis called those hurt most by his actions “whining” “losers.”
To recap, Thom Tillis put the screws to unemployed workers in his state, called on Kay Hagan to clean up his mess, and then when she voted to do just that, Tillis played partisan political games and opposed the fix.
“Thom Tillis and Mark Harris are once again admitting that when it comes to the economy they would put their allegiance to special interests and the Tea Party ahead of North Carolina,” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Thom Tillis has already led the way in cutting unemployment benefits for North Carolinians looking for work and now he’s opposing the very same fix he called for, opposing a bipartisan measure that would have given critical relief to North Carolinians searching for a job. While Republicans like Thom Tillis and Mark Harris put politics ahead of North Carolina, Senator Kay Hagan continues to fight for North Carolinians who have been by hurt by Thom Tillis’ reckless and irresponsible economic agenda.”
Senator Kay Hagan is fighting for North Carolina’s unemployed workers. Focused on cleaning up the mess Tillis made, Senator Hagan continues to work to pass a provision that would bring much need relief to North Carolina’s unemployed workers by making North Carolina eligible again to offer federal benefits to the long-term unemployed.
Polls show that a majority of Americans stand with Democrats to renew unemployment benefits. A recent Hart Research poll shows 55% of voters say Congress should act to maintain unemployment benefits. As GOP Senate candidates like Thom Tillis and Mark Harris stand against unemployed American workers, Senator Hagan and Democrats will continue to hold Republicans accountable and fight for hardworking families by working to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans, increase the minimum wage, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class.
TILLIS CALLED FOR FIX, BUT THEN OPPOSED IT
Tillis’ Stance “Drew Particular Attention” For Saying He Would Vote Against Unemployment Benefits Fix He asked For. In January 2014, the Raleigh News & Observer reported: “Tillis’ stance in particular drew attention. He has criticized Hagan for not adding language to federal law allowing North Carolina to tweak their unemployment benefits without penalty. But now Tillis would have voted against the fix.” [Raleigh News & Observer, 1/7/14]
TILLIS CREATED THE PROBLEM WHEN HE LED THE WAY IN CUTTING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS FOR NORTH CAROLINIANS
Tillis “Touted The [Unemployment] Benefit Reductions.” In December 2013, the Winston-Salem Journal reported: “States that made changes to their UI benefits without congressional approval were disqualified from receiving benefits. North Carolina was alone in applying the benefit-reduction strategy within a federal extended benefits cycle. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the decision cost North Carolina an estimated $780 million in UI benefits for the second half of 2013. State legislative leaders, led by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, touted the benefit reductions. They said they were trying to bring the N.C. jobless benefits in line with the maximum provided in eight Southeastern states.” [Winston-Salem Journal, 12/11/13]
Tillis Supported Cutting $780 Million In Federal Unemployment Benefits For 170,000 North Carolina Workers Who Were Laid Off. In February 2013, the AP reported that “North Carolina legislators agreed Wednesday to cut payments to future jobless workers and raise business taxes to hasten repayment of $2.5 billion owed to the federal government because the state couldn't keep up with benefit requests during the recession. the Republican-controlled Senate's 36-12 vote in favor of the state unemployment system overhaul sends the changes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature. Several liberal-leaning groups have urged McCrory to veto the bill, but he has said he supports the plan. ‘We're going to pay down that debt, make the system solvent and provide an economic climate that allows businesses, large and small, to put people back to work,’ McCrory said in a statement after the final vote. Maximum weekly benefits would fall more than one-third — from $535 to $350 — for new jobless claims starting July 1. The maximum number of benefit weeks would fall from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks. The bill, which already passed the GOP-controlled House last week, also means federal emergency extended benefits approved by Congress in January are poised to expire in North Carolina six months early, in July. The federal law directs extended benefits be canceled in states that modify benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor entered the debate, pointing out that 170,000 people won't qualify for $780 million in total federal benefits. North Carolina's unemployment rate, 9.2 percent, is the fifth-highest in the country.” House Speaker Thom Tillis voted in favor of the measure. Governor McCrory signed the bill into law. [AP, 2/14/13; House Vote 17, (Tillis – Y), 2/5/13; Senate Vote 25, 2/13/13; Reuters, 2/19/13]
- Law “Sharply” Cut Unemployment Benefits From $535 To $350 Per Week, Which Republicans Pushed Through In Order To Pay Back Money North Carolina Owes The Federal Government. “Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law on Tuesday sharply cutting North Carolina’s unemployment benefits as agencies that deal with jobless workers predicted hard times to come. The law, which takes effect July 1, makes sweeping changes. It reduces the maximum unemployment benefit by one-third, from$535 to $350 per week. It reduces the length of benefits from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the state unemployment rate. It also eliminates benefits for workers who have to leave a job for health or family reasons. North Carolina currently has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 9.2 percent, or more than 430,000 workers. The overhaul, pushed by Republicans in the General Assembly, is designed to repay $2.5 billion the state owes the federal government for past benefits.” [Charlotte Observer, 2/20/13; H.B. 4; voted 17 (Tillis – Y), 2/5/13; became law, 2/9/13]
- 70,000 North Carolinians Lost Unemployment Benefits On July 1, With Up To 170,000 Ultimately Losing Their Benefits. “Unemployment insurance payments to more than 70,000 North Carolinians are set to run out in four weeks, one result of an overhaul in North Carolina’s unemployment system that takes effect on June 30. Those affected include anyone receiving federal extended unemployment payments, or most people who started drawing benefits before January 1. The N.C. Employment Security Commission has begun notifying people through its website and over the phone when they file required weekly claims. The state legislature’s unemployment system overhaul, which both raised taxes on employers and cut the length and amount of benefits, makes the state ineligible to receive federal unemployment funds intended for those unemployed longer than 26 weeks. Federal law cuts off aid to states that don’t maintain their current benefit system. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 170,000 people in North Carolina could ultimately lose extended federal benefits for which they otherwise would have qualified.” [Charlotte Observer, 5/31/13]
- North Carolina Became The First State In The Nation To Lose Federal Unemployment Benefits – The State Slashed Its Own Benefits Earlier In The Year, Which “Disqualifies North Carolina From Receiving The Federal Benefits Intended For Those Unemployed Longer Than 26 Weeks.” “Federal extended unemployment benefits end for more than 70,000 jobless North Carolinians on Sunday as the state becomes the first in the nation to opt out of the federal long-term compensation program. A state unemployment overhaul that takes effect this weekend disqualifies North Carolina from receiving the federal benefits intended for those unemployed longer than 26 weeks. Federal law cuts off aid to states that don’t maintain their current benefit system. Supporters of the reform say the move will help the state pay back $2.5 billion in federal debt more quickly. The state borrowed the money to pay unemployment benefits during the economic downturn. Advocates for the unemployed say the measure will hurt the state’s economy, where the unemployment rate is the fifth-highest in the nation at 8.8 percent in May. In addition to those losing benefits when the law kicks in, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by the end of the year an additional 100,000 jobless workers in North Carolina won’t receive the long-term unemployment benefits for which they’d otherwise have been eligible. The unemployment overhaul, passed in February, raises taxes on employers and cuts both the amount and length of benefits for the unemployed.” [Charlotte Observer, 6/30/13]
TILLIS CALLED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AN “ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM” THAT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE ONE
“Tillis Said Unemployment Benefits Were Never Intended As A Near ‘Entitlement Program.’” “Tillis said the House also would move ahead on legislation that would hasten the repayment of nearly $2.6 billion the state owes the federal government. The proposal includes both higher taxes for business and potential cuts in maximum weekly state jobless benefits by about one-third. Legislation expected to go before the chamber's finance committee Thursday would start the changes July 1. That date would mean federal emergency extended benefits would end for an estimated 80,000 long-term jobless workers six months early because the ‘fiscal cliff’ law approved by Congress in early January doesn't allow states to modify benefit levels through the end of 2013. Tillis said unemployment benefits were never intended as a near ‘entitlement program’ but as ‘a bridge to help people as they go back to work.’ He said creating a solution that accelerates the debt payoff by three years and brings benefits in line with other Southeastern states would free up businesses to hire more.” [AP, 2/12/13]
Tillis Supported Reducing Both the Duration of and Amount of Unemployment Benefits. In January 2013, the Watauga Democrat stated, “Tillis said the House will move forward with an unemployment insurance bill vetted by the Revenue Laws Study Committee that would reduce the duration of unemployment insurance benefits to 13 to 20 weeks (currently the duration is up to 26 weeks, depending on the state unemployment rate) and reduce the maximum weekly benefit amount from $535 to $350. As currently written, the legislation would effectively eliminate North Carolina's ability to receive federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation to help those who have exhausted their state-provided unemployment benefits. ‘Unemployment was never intended to be this long-term, almost a kind of entitlement program,’ Tillis said. ‘It was intended to be a bridge to help people as they go back to work.’” [Watauga Democrat, 1/29/13]
TILLIS’ UNEMPLOYMENT CUTS WERE SLAMMED BY EDITORIAL BOARDS
New York Times Editorial: Ending Federal Unemployment Benefits in North Carolina Was “The Cruelest Decision By Lawmakers.” In July 2013, The New York Times editorialized, “The cruelest decision by [North Carolina] lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.” [Editorial, New York Times, 7/10/13]
New York Times Editorial: “North Carolina Is The Only State That Has Lost Long-Term Federal Benefits.” In July 2013, The New York Times editorialized, “The state [North Carolina] has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, and many Republicans insulted workers by blaming their joblessness on generous benefits. In fact, though, North Carolina is the only state that has lost long-term federal benefits, because it did not want to pay back $2.5 billion it owed to Washington for the program.” [Editorial, New York Times, 7/10/13]
Star-News Editorial: On Tax Reform “As For The State, The Belt-Tightening That Has Squeezed The Schools And Other State-Funded Services And Sent State Workers To The Unemployment Rolls Will Continue.” In July 2013, Star-News editorialized, “As for the state, the belt-tightening [from Tillis’ tax reform] that has squeezed the schools and other state-funded services and sent state workers to the unemployment rolls will continue. The compromise would reduce state revenue $500 million next year compared with leaving tax rates alone, and $2.4 billion over five years.” [Editorial, Star-News, 7/16/13]
Raleigh News & Observer Editorial: The North Carolina Legislature’s Unemployment Benefit Cuts Show Lawmakers “Don’t Care To Consider What Happens To People When Their Benefits Are Cut Off” Because The Reality Is “Homes Will Be Lost,” “Medicine Will Go Unbought,” And “Kids Will Go Hungry.” “Reflecting little more than their distaste for federal safety net programs and their lack of care for the unemployed in North Carolina, Republicans in the General Assembly cut the maximum unemployment benefit to $350 from $535 and curbed the length of time people are eligible. The reason? To pay back more quickly the $2 billion the state owes the federal government for money borrowed to cover benefits following the Bush recession. […] The average benefit check of about $300 a week doesn’t exactly provide for a take-it-easy lifestyle. And GOP lawmakers don’t care to consider what happens to people when their benefits are cut off and they are still without work. Homes will be lost. Medicine will go unbought. Kids will go hungry. That’s the reality, as opposed to the rhetoric.” [Editorial, Raleigh News & Observer, 6/30/13]
Greenville Daily Reflector Editorial: “The Coming Weeks Will See 170,000 Unemployed State Residents Lose $700 Million In Payments That Help Them Pay Rent, Buy Food And Keep The Lights On” Which Shows How “Cruel” And “Callous” The Legislature’s Cuts Are. “In one of the first acts this session, the General Assembly voted to cut the weekly maximum benefit of $535 to $350 and shorten the compensation period from six months to no more than five. That negated the federal requirement, meaning that the coming weeks will see 170,000 unemployed state residents lose $700 million in payments that help them pay rent, buy food and keep the lights on. This decision is cruel. It is callous. And, sadly, it’s what citizens have come to expect from this Legislature.” [Editorial, Greenville Daily Reflector, 6/30/13]
Greenville Daily Reflector Editorial: “The General Assembly May Consider This The Fiscally Responsible Course Of Action” But “It Should Be Seen As Heartless, An Action That Shows Neither Morality Or Humanity, And One Unbecoming Of The Old North State.” “In one of the first actions by the Legislature this year, the Republican majorities of the House and Senate approved a bill altering the benefits paid to unemployed workers meeting certain qualifications. Washington offered states the ability to provide financial help to the long-term jobless, so long as the state government agreed to leave its benefits unchanged. North Carolina currently allows individuals to receive 26 weeks of benefits, and the federal government affords them the opportunity to receive as many as 47 additional weeks. Caught in the middle are the thousands of long-term unemployed who are active job-seekers (as receiving benefits requires) but will be abandoned by the state at the end of the month. The General Assembly may consider this the fiscally responsible course of action, one needed to facilitate economic growth. But it should be seen as heartless, an action that shows neither morality or humanity, and one unbecoming of the Old North State.” [Editorial, Greenville Daily Reflector, 6/17/13]
News & Observer Editorial: “Since Assuming Control Of The General Assembly, However, Republicans Have Delivered Ideological Legislation Such As An Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment And Cuts To Unemployment Benefits, In The Process Costing Tens Of Thousands Of North Carolinians Extended Benefits From The Federal Government That Would Cost The State Nothing.” In July 2013, The News & Observer editorialized, “Since assuming control of the General Assembly, however, Republicans have delivered ideological legislation such as an anti-gay marriage amendment and cuts to unemployment benefits, in the process costing tens of thousands of North Carolinians extended benefits from the federal government that would cost the state nothing. Because of that action, tens of millions of dollars will be lost to the state’s economy, even as tax cuts siphon more revenue.” [News & Observer, Editorial, 7/16/13]
IN 2011, TILLIS PLAYED POLITICS WITH UNEMPLOYMENT CHECKS FOR THOUSANDS OF NORTH CAROLINA WORKERS BY HOLDING THEM HOSTAGE
April 2011: Tillis Tied Extending Unemployment Benefits to a New Spending Plan, Perdue Called It Extortion. In April 2011, AP stated, “House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said lawmakers will vote to change a formula that allows federal funds to continue flowing to the long-term unemployed. Otherwise, about 37,000 jobless workers who thought they had up to an additional 20 weeks of benefits will lose unemployment checks on Saturday. None of the money comes from North Carolina funds and extending the benefits would not add to the state unemployment trust fund's $2.6 billion debt, the state Employment Security Commission said. But continued unemployment checks depend on Perdue accepting language that erases the chances budget talks will grind to a halt without a new spending plan by July. In the absence of a new spending plan, state government would continue operating for a year at 13 percent below the level Perdue proposed in February, the GOP-backed legislation said. Tillis and Berger said they connected the two issues because a state budget that was both smaller and wasn't at risk of the interruption that businesses hate would encourage employment growth. ‘They're related because we have got to create sound fiscal footing for this state to get back to job creation,’ Tillis said. ‘That happens by getting a budget out there, getting certainty out there, getting the tax reform provisions that we will propose in this budget out there, and that's why we think the two are intrinsically linked.’ The measure tentatively passed the Senate 29-19 Wednesday over several efforts by Democrats to separate the jobless benefits from the backup budget cuts. A final Senate vote and House approval would have to come Thursday before forcing Perdue to veto or approve the measure before Saturday. ‘It sounds like extortion to me," Perdue said in an interview. "They were elected to lead this state and to make tough decisions about the expenditures of North Carolina, not to give up in early April and walk away.’” [AP, 4/13/11]
- Tillis’ Republican Legislature Held Unemployment Benefits For 47,000 North Carolinians To Force Perdue To Accept 13 Percent Budget Cut. “A Republican-penned budget deeply criticized by Democrats for cuts to education passed a key vote Friday and headed closer to a showdown with Gov. Beverly Perdue. The House voted 73-44 for the spending plan, in the first of two votes on a $19.7 billion budget. A second vote was scheduled after midnight. The budget would then head to Perdue after final action in the Senate early Saturday…The vote came hours after Perdue claimed executive authority to break an impasse on unemployment benefits that unexpectedly cut off benefits seven weeks ago to about 47,000 long-term jobless workers. A Republican solution was contained in the state budget. ‘I have tried to be a team player,’ Perdue said after being asked why she waited to issue an executive order. ‘Last night I went home and said, `I am over this.' These people deserve the benefits. It's federal money. It doesn't cost this state anything out of our coffers.’ Extended unemployment benefits became entangled with the budget when Republicans linked action to change a formula restoring federal jobless funds to Perdue accepting a 13 percent cut from her proposed budget. Perdue said the move used ‘desperate people as leverage to extort my support for an ideologically-driven budget.’” [AP, 6/4/11]
- Charlotte Observer Editorial: Republican Legislation Extending Unemployment Benefits for 37,000 People In Exchange for a 13% Across the Board Cut From the Budget Was “Demoralizing.” In April 2011, The Charlotte Observer editorialized, “Everyone draws his own line between what's cynical political sneakiness and what's just run-of-the-mill politics. Last week's strategic ploy was too blatant to be part of that debate. If you appreciate tactical maneuvering, I suppose, it was admirable. But if you're more concerned with taking care of important state business, it was demoralizing. Republican majorities in the House and Senate passed legislation that extends unemployment benefits for 37,000 people who were set to lose them on Saturday, but attached that to a "continuing resolution" establishing a budget for next year that is a 13 percent across-the-board cut from Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed budget. It stuck Perdue in a position of either vetoing benefits for the unemployed or accepting a budget for next year that's as nuanced as a jackhammer. She vetoed the bill Saturday. Republican leaders somehow kept a straight face when they said the legislation was meant to avoid shutting down the government. If no budget were approved by June 30, they proclaimed, this continuing resolution would fund the government and avoid a shutdown.” [Editorial, Charlotte Observer, 4/17/11]