Lawmakers agree to advance unemployment insurance rate freeze

THINKSTOCK
THINKSTOCK

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 7, 2014…..Legislative negotiators are divorcing a proposed freeze in unemployment insurance rates paid by employers from broader talks about systemic reforms and the minimum wage.

Top House and Senate Democrats announced early Monday evening that a joint conference committee has filed a bill freezing rates at a schedule that will save employers from paying $420 million in new premiums this year.

In statements, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer called it a ?business-friendly measure? and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Brian Dempsey said the freeze ?safeguards current jobs by protecting employers from a scheduled increase in rates.

“In these uncertain economic times, we continue to work hard to balance the needs of employers and employees across Massachusetts,” said Dempsey (D-Haverhill).

Rate freeze proposals this year have failed to gather momentum due to disagreements between branch leaders over other issues, creating uncertainty for employers. Talks are continuing among legislative leaders over proposals to raise the minimum wage, make reforms to the unemployment insurance system, and protect domestic workers.

Under the schedule called for in the bill, the unemployment insurance rate per employee is about $778 and the rate schedule will lead to an estimated year-end balance of $998 million in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

Conference committee reports are not subject to amendment and are typically approved by the Legislature.

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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