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Dems veto call on UI reform maybe have reverse effect

Thanks but no thanks.

That was essentially one construction industry lobbyist’s response to state Democrats’ call for Gov. Scott Walker to veto a series of reforms to Wisconsin’s unemployment-insurance system proposed in the state’s 2013-15 budget bill. The governor is now considering whether he should use his broad veto powers to strike that and other proposals from the two-year spending plan, which he is scheduled to sign Sunday.

Perhaps most vexing to the lobbyist I spoke to is a provision that would increase the tax rates paid by companies that most frequently use the state’s unemployment-insurance fund, many of them construction companies. The increase, which would take the top rate up by 2.2 percentage points, is estimated to cost an additional $32 million in 2015, the first full year it will be in effect.

His point to me was that he’d love it if the governor went along with the Democrats. But the request, given its origin from across the political aisle, was likely to have the opposite result. I agreed, thinking that if anything it would cause the governor to dig his heels in even more.

Why should he take a step that could let his political rivals claim a victory and at the same time cause embarrassment for the Republicans who have championed these reforms?

But the Democrats had to know all this and, in issuing their veto request, almost certainly were doing nothing but trying to make their positions better known. One curious thing in their letter is a contention that the proposed tax increase is “one of the least thought-through measures in the entire budget!”

In fact, the idea has been around for a while and has been the subject of at least some debate. It was discussed and voted on in either April or May by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, an independent body composed of five representatives of business and five of labor.

True, the council, whose recommendations were at one time adopted virtually unchanged by the Legislature, decided to reject the idea. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t thought through by everyone who took part in the discussions, including some Republican lawmakers.

On Page 5 of the response the council sent to two of the biggest proponents of unemployment-insurance reform, the council states that the proposed tax increase was rejected because “the council expressed concern that many employers would not support this proposal.”

Isn’t this like arguing that a city shouldn’t give out parking tickets because the drivers who are cited might get upset?

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