State Politics

Bill delays unemployment tax increase

TALLAHASSEE — Legislation that would delay an unemployment compensation tax increase for two years is on a fast track to early passage in the Florida Legislature.

Two similar bills received final committee approval Wednesday in the House and Senate, both by unanimous votes.

A sponsor, however, warned that the tax paid by employers must increase eventually.

“We’ve postponed the train, (but) it’s going to hit us,” said Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola.

“This gives us a little bit of time to brace for that impact.”

The tax increase is needed to replenish the trust fund that compensates jobless workers and to pay back $1.1 billion borrowed from the federal government since the fund hit zero last year.

That figure could in- crease if Florida’s jobless rate, nearly 12 percent, doesn’t start coming down soon.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who had announced he will hold up collections due in April until the Legislature can pass the delaying legislation, praised lawmakers for their quick action.

“Without this legisla- tion, business leaders and employers are facing sub- stantial increases in unemployment taxes,” Crist said.

“Businesses should not be burdened with higher taxes, as it only stifles their ability to thrive and create jobs for our people.”

One of the bills (HB 7033) cleared the House Finance and Tax Council while the other (SB 1666) won approval from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate Com- merce Committee also approved the latter bill Tuesday.

Passage is expected early in the 2010 legislative session, possibly on opening day, March 2.