Legislature Could Vote on Unemployment Benefits Today

8/1/11 – Wisconsin senators are scheduled to vote this afternoon on giving more 13 weeks of benefits to the state’s long-term unemployed. But Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he’s not sure if he has the votes to pass it. That’s because there’s a disagreement on whether the bill should include a one-week waiting period for the newly-unemployed to receive benefits once they apply. The waiting period was included in the new state budget to save up to 56-million-dollars a year. But senators eliminated the waiting period when they first approved the jobless benefits last month. And the Assembly voted the next day to put it back. The two houses must agree on the same measure before they can send it to the governor. And in the meantime, up to 40-thousand unemployed Wisconsinites are waiting for the longer benefits, after using up 73 weeks of payments earlier. The federal government has made up to 89-million-dollars of extended benefits available. Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller is against the waiting period. He says Republicans would show a lack of “conviction and courage” if they restore it after voting to drop it. Senate G-O-P President Mike Ellis does not like the timing of today’s vote. He says Democrats will blame Republicans for delaying jobless benefits, just as six G-O-P senators face recall elections a week from tomorrow. As Ellis puts it, “They’ve got another week to run ads about how we hate the middle class.”