Last week, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session of the legislature to pass a bill that would extend unemployment insurance from 79 to 99 weeks. The call was for the Feds to pick up the tab on the additional $65 million in insurance cost to Arizona.
On the surface, accepting these funds appears innocuous, until you dig deeper.
A huge problem revolves around unsustainable levels of federal spending and federal debt. Our federal government is now borrowing 40 cents for every dollar it spends and these unemployment extension dollars are no exception.
What is really going on here amounts to a continuation of the Obama bailout program, which has misleadingly been dubbed “stimulus.” Truth be told, the Obama bailout has done little or nothing to correct the downturn in our economy. Its effect is similar to giving 6-year-olds candy before bedtime. It winds them up for a quick burst of activity, but the crash comes as soon as the rush wears off.
About 7 percent of the $800 billion of Obama stimulus monies went to “hard” projects, such as repairing roads and bridges and constructing public buildings. The vast majority of stimulus money went to what we in government call, “maintenance of effort,” or for pet projects backed by liberal Democrat Congressional leaders. In other words, the Obama administration shot its stimulus wad on pork-barrel spending and keeping government employees working in an artificial continuum, with little spending directed at jump-starting private-sector job creation.
Listen, I am not an ideological purest who thinks we should walk away from federal dollars. But if Arizona is to take this money, we should, at the very least, couple it with some type of state reform that actually creates new jobs and attempts to rebuild our economy. For instance, we could suspend the business personal property tax on new equipment investments and our State’s capital gains tax for three years. These changes would encourage businesses, both large and small, to invest and invest now. It is also something that both Republican and Democrat legislators should be able to agree upon.
If we do not tie this continuation of unemployment insurance benefits with real economic stimulus, then Arizona lawmakers are no different from our federal counterparts, who approved the Pelosi/Reed/Obama boondoggle stimulus package and neglected true job creation measures.
I have a great deal of sympathy for today’s unemployed, most of whom are jobless through no fault of their own. However, I have not and I will not spend any of your tax dollars in special sessions on extending unemployment benefits unless it is coupled with positive actions to create jobs and improve the economy.
After all, extending unemployment benefits is simply a temporary Band-Aid, while real economic stimulus measures that put people back to work is the real cure for joblessness.
Rep. Vic Williams (LD26) serves the communities of Marana, Oro Valley, Saddlebrooke, Flowing Wells, the Catalina Foothills, Casa Adobes, unincorporated Northwest Pima County and Tucson. You can contact Rep. Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 926-5839.