State Senate passes measures avoiding employer tax hike to fund jobless benefits

Three measures meant to hold employer taxes and worker benefits steady despite the state’s empty unemployment trust fund were approved Wednesday by the Louisiana Senate.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the state fund that pays for unemployment benefits had a balance of more than $1 billion. The fund has been tapped out, however, by the unprecedented demand during the pandemic, forcing the state to borrow from the federal government to pay legally mandated benefits.

When the fund balance falls, state law calls for more taxes on employers and reduced benefits for unemployed workers to shore up the fund. The Senate voted for three measures that, taken together, put that process on hold, according to The Center Square. 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 calls for suspending the requirement that the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference certify the fund’s balance in September. SCR5 would suspend imposition of a “solvency tax” that normally kicks in when the balance dips below $100 million. That tax could have cost employers collectively more than $60 million, according to a Legislative Fiscal Office estimate.

SB89 keeps the maximum weekly worker benefit and the amount of each employer’s wage base that is taxable the same as they are currently. Lawmakers last year froze benefits and taxes at the level at which the law normally calls for when the fund is between $750 million and $1.15 billion. Read the full story.