Unemployment Insurance: Another Missed Opportunity

The Pew Research Center reports that unemployment-insurance funds “are still clawing their way back to solvency,” with “many state officials and labor analysts … concerned about what will happen to jobless benefits once another economic downturn arrives.”

Last month, Carol Wight of the New Mexico Restaurant Association explained that New Mexico’s UI fund “is inadequate even though many employers’ premiums have more than tripled this year.” Between March 2008 and March 2014, the balance plunged from $557 million to $49 million. It’s recovered a bit in the last year, but a downward trajectory will return if layoffs intensify in the state’s oil-and-gas sector.

HB482 was drafted to address the UI challenge. It would have reduces a claimant’s benefit from 53.5 percent to 45 percent of the average wage earned, and reduced the “total wage factor formula” to the percentage used by Arizona and Colorado — which is still more generous than Utah and Texas.

But the bill failed, and not because of State Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen). It was voted down, 39-25, in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

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