Nashville: Unemployment-benefits extension not a 'top priority' for Haslam

Nashville: Unemployment-benefits extension not a 'top priority' for Haslam

May 20th, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

NASHVILLE - A spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Haslam says it's not a "top priority" for him to restore extended unemployment benefits for more than 20,000 jobless Tennesseans.

"Our budget reflects our top priority," Haslam's communications director, Alexia Poe, told reporters this morning. She said the governor is leaving it up to lawmakers to find money to restore benefits.

"The governor says if the legislature can find money - not in our budget, not in the [reserve accounts] - to fund it, he's OK with it," she said.

Asked why helping people who lost jobs in the Great Recession isn't a top priority for the Republican governor, Poe said, "The governor said he had concerns about the burden on local governments. He said if we're going to do it, we need to pay the local governments back, and it was not included in the administration's budget amendment."

House majority Republicans and minority Democrats are pushing legislation to restore the extended benefits program for more than 28,000 people.

The federal government would put up $57.7 million for people who lost private-sector jobs. The House version of the budget provides an estimated $2.8 million for laid-off state and local government workers.

But the GOP-controlled Senate opposes the effort, said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's unemployment rate ticked up last month to by 0.1 percent in April, according to the state Labor and Workforce Development news release Thursday.

Commissioner Karla Davis said that was "because of a substantial increase in the number of people looking for a job."