Last night, the Ohio General Assembly came to an agreement on unemployment compensation. Unemployment compensation reform has been a critical issue to ACT Ohio’s membership since reform measures were proposed last year.
House Bill 394 (“HB 394”) was introduced November 17, 2015, and the House intended to pass it by Christmas 2015. The language of this bill would have been extremely damaging to the construction industry. After these proceedings were stopped, a Task Force was assigned to hear testimony about unemployment compensation reform over the course of several months led by Representative Kirk Schuring and Senator Bob Peterson.
The Task Force proceedings led to the introduction of House Bill 620 (“HB 620”) last Monday, November 28th. Both the House and the Senate stated their public intent to pass it before the session was done. HB 620 was certainly better than HB 394, but it still was very damaging. As introduced, HB 620 would have:
- Reduced benefits from 26 to 20 weeks
- Eliminated dependency benefits ($152 dollars per week for guys with 3 kids/ $92 dollars per week for guys with 2 kids)
- Froze benefits in place (no annual increases/adjustments) for 10-12 years until solvency was reached
A strong coalition of construction industry representatives voiced their concerns over HB 620 and its implications for workers. After intense negotiation and discussion, all parties found compromise. It was decided that:
- Employers would pay from $9000 to $9500 for 2 years (2018-19)
- Workers will take a freeze in benefits for 2 years (2018-19)
- HB 390 penalties on employers will be lifted (good for employers and our contractors)
Also included in the compromise was an agreement that all parties would jointly fund a third party actuary to provide unbiased data, as everyone works together to craft a long-term solvency solution by April 2017. Governor Kasich’s representative stated the Governor strongly supported the compromise, which helped close the deal.
After the negotiations, ACT Ohio Executive Director Matt Szollosi, the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Duffey, and Operating Engineers Local 18 Legislative Director Mark Totman, participated in a press conference to announce the compromise with Speaker Rosenberger, the Manufacturers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the NFIB, and the AFL-CIO.
Executive Director Szollosi commented “I’m extremely pleased with the results of our negotiations with the business community. I’m very appreciative of the leadership exhibited by Speaker Rosenberger, Senate President-elect Larry Obhof and many others that helped forge this agreement.”
ACT Ohio will continue to report updates as all parties work together to find a long term solvency solution.