Bloomberg News

Florida’s Scott Wants Unemployed to Work for State Benefits

October 12, 2011

(Adds other legislative proposals at end.)

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Florida Governor Rick Scott has a message for people receiving unemployment compensation from his state: if you want it, you’ll have to work for it.

The first-term Republican, who campaigned on promises to bring 700,000 jobs to Florida over seven years, today proposed mandatory retraining for residents getting state unemployment assistance.

“Rather than continue to simply pay out benefits for those out of work, Florida must focus its efforts on ensuring that it can offer the most able workforce in the nation,” Scott said in a statement unveiling his 2012 agenda for the legislative session that begins in January.

It’s not the first time Scott, 58, has taken measures to tighten requirements for government benefits. He signed legislation in May that makes recipients of aid for needy families submit to drug tests. The law goes further than in Arizona and Missouri, which test recipients only if officials have a suspicion of drug use.

Georgia, under a program started in 2003, also requires jobless workers receiving state aid to be trained at companies. President Barack Obama proposed a national system based on the Georgia model in his $447 billion jobs stimulus plan last month.

Florida’s unemployment rate in August was 10.7 percent, 1.6 percentage points higher than the national average. The state has lost more than 800,000 jobs since peak employment in March 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Previous Measure

Scott has already taken steps to encourage people to get off the unemployment rolls. He signed a law in June reducing the time Floridians can receive state compensation to 23 weeks from 26 weeks and requiring them to contact at least five employers a week. The law also makes recipients apply online, rather than over the phone, and take an initial skills review.

“Applying for a benefit that is among the lowest in the country” was made “much more difficult” by the law, George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes policies to support working families, said in a telephone interview.

Scott today also proposed raising the amount of business profit exempt from taxes to $50,000 from $25,000. The former hospital-chain chief executive officer elected in November campaigned on promises to eliminate the corporate tax. The Legislature passed the initial $25,000 exemption in May.

Scott also proposed increased scrutiny of 1,633 Florida special districts, nonprofits and quasi-governmental entities with the authority to assess taxes. A task force is examining hospital districts, which account for about a quarter of the $15.4 billion of revenue raised by special districts, he said.

He signed a law earlier this year reducing taxes levied by the state’s five water-management districts by about 30 percent.

--Editors: Jerry Hart, Mark Tannenbaum, Ted Bunker

To contact the reporter on this story: Simone Baribeau in Miami at sbaribeau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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