By Scott Miller
Published April 5, 2011
State Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said today he expects lawmakers to provide relief to employers’ unemployment insurance bills and Gov. Nikki Haley to support it.
“But it’s hard to say right now because we don’t know what that (reform) is,” said Hitt, speaking after a formal presentation at the Greenville Area Development Corp.’s annual investor appreciation luncheon.
The state reformed the method for collecting unemployment insurance last year to boost revenues from $270 million to an estimated $680 million this year. The state must begin repaying a $933 million federal loan used to pay jobless benefits, as well as pay an estimated $500 million in benefits this year.
The change equated to a sharp tax increase for employers who have laid off employees the past seven years. The more people an employer laid off, the higher its tax rate.
Hitt said Commerce has requested the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry committee to evaluate extending the repayment period on the federal loan to provide some relief. LCI has been doing so for weeks but has yet to vote on any specific measure.
“I think you’ll see some reform come from that,” Hitt said.
While Hitt was careful to note that Haley wasn’t advocating for any specific plan, he said the governor is likely to support whatever measure comes out of the LCI committee. He also said Haley supported last year’s reform of the unemployment insurance system but understands the need to improve it.
During a stop in Greenville last month, Haley was confronted by Upstate businesses about the higher tax bills but was unwavering in support of last year’s reform. While she welcomed debate about tweaking the reform, she wouldn’t say if she would support it or not.