Construction workers oppose jobless-fund plan-WEB ONLY

Construction workers are gathering in Indianapolis today for a midday rally at the Indiana Statehouse to protest proposed cuts in unemployment insurance benefits.

Lawmakers have been trying to come up with a solution for the state’s unemployment insurance fund, which has been paying out hundreds of millions of dollars more in benefits than it has been collecting in employer taxes.

Republicans who control the Senate have proposed a plan that would increase employer taxes, reduce benefits for many jobless claimants and tighten eligibility standards. They and Democrats who control the House are trying to negotiate a compromise. Democrats favor higher taxes on employers and no reduced benefits.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 business manager Jay Potesta said that under the GOP plan, a worker who is injured on the job would not be eligible for unemployment compensation.

Republicans say their plan is a balanced approach because it includes employers, the unemployed and restructuring the system to help eliminate what they call fraud and abuse.

The plan would make employers with a history of laying off workers pay higher rates. Construction companies often fall under that category.

A key component is reducing weekly benefits the longer a person is drawing state-paid unemployment benefits. Senate Republicans say their plan would make the system solvent by the end of 2011. Then the state would begin paying back federal loans and ultimately build up an adequate surplus in the fund.

The fund has borrowed more than a half-billion dollars from the federal government to remain solvent, a figure that could climb to higher than a billion dollars by the end of the year unless lawmakers fix the system.

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