Governor calls roundtable meeting on unemployment insurance

The potential for increases to the unemployment insurance tax on the state’s businesses prompted Governor Mark Sanford to call together what he calls an Unemployment Roundtable with the South Carolina Department of Commerce and leaders of all sized businesses from around the state. That meeting is set for Tuesday(beginning at 9:30, Brown Building in the Statehouse Complex).
Board of Economic Advisers Chairman John Rainey has been meeting with leaders of the Employment Security Commission, the Department of Commerce and others, to develop a plan for paying back the federal government for an Unemployment Insurance Fund deficit fast approaching $1 billion, and for rebuilding the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund.
Sanford asserts that the tax could be raised up to $567 per employee. He says there are alternatives.
Sanford has had a long-standing contention with the Employment Security Commission. A couple of times he withheld his signature from federal loan requests to cover unemployment checks for South Carolina workers. The governor tells the South Carolina Radio Network that now the reason for his concerns are coming into light.
“This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time,” said Sanford.  “If you rewind the clock back to Christmas of last year, we were called cruel and cold-hearted and all those things when we raised real concerns about these borrowings from the Fed.  Our point is that we need reform  and information.  Through a long enough tug or war we got information.  And now the Department of Commerce has the report.” 
All interested South Carolinians, business owners, community leaders and legislators are invited to attend Tuesday’s roundtable meeting.
Sanford gave credit to Representative Kenny Bingham, Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senators Greg Ryberg and Nikki Setzler, along with leaders in the business community for their efforts in trying to move forward legislation this past session that would have reformed the Employment Security Commission.
Speakers and expert panelists include: State Senator Greg Ryberg; State Representative Kenny Bingham; John Rainey, Chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors; Dr. Rebecca Gunnlaugsson, South Carolina Department of Commerce; John Stephen and Jay Lucas, The Lucas Group; Dr. Barry Russell, President, SC Technical College System; Ted Halley, SC Employment Security Commission; Nita Colman, Worklink (Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens County OneStops); and Dr. Peggy Torrey, Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development, among others.
On a related note, Lt. Governor André Bauer released a statement Friday that he is asking state leaders to join him in calling the General Assembly into special session to fix a problem he says is stopping South Carolina from drawing down free federal dollars that would extend 20 additional weeks of unemployment checks to thousands of jobless workers.
Bauer says more than 100,000 South Carolinians have exhausted their unemployment benefits.  Bauer seeks the special session so the Legislature can swiftly amend the extended benefits statute to make technical changes to an economic index that triggers additional emergency checks.
Bauer says because legislative action has not been taken, five months of unemployment checks will be denied to thousands of out-of-work resident.
The South Carolina Employment Security Commission announced that the state’s Extended Benefits program will end Saturday.
ESC Deputy Director Jimmy Jones explains that there is a 26-week regular state program, then a 20-week federal program, then another 13 week-federal program. If a worker exhausts all of those programs and they qualify they move into the state extended benefits program
South Carolina has an 11.5% unemployment rate, one of the worst in the country.