State Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester criticized Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday for taking a wait-and-see attitude toward extending benefits to thousands of unemployed Tennesseans.
“Mr. Haslam needs to prove he’s serious about governing — not scoring political points. The livelihood of nearly 30,000 citizens is on the line. Republicans owe it to these hurting families to act responsibly,” Forrester said.
Earlier in the day, Haslam told reporters his staff is evaluating whether to ask the legislature to seek the additional federal money for the benefits.
Benefits ran out in April for 28,000 Tennesseans after the legislature failed to enact a law to extend them. Democrats now are trying to persuade Republicans who run the House and Senate to accept nearly $58 million in federal funds to send up to 20 more weeks of unemployment checks.
With the legislature getting ready to adjourn for the year by the end of the month, House and Senate committees have yet to act on bills to resurrect the benefits. Haslam expressed concerns about the cost to the state. It is estimated to cost state and local governments nearly $3 million.
“Gov. Bill Haslam and Republican legislators haven’t lived up to their promise to create jobs, and now their negligence is jeopardizing critical financial support that is keeping children fed, bills paid and families out of foreclosure,” Forrester said.
“We’ve seen harmful bills that rob citizens and teachers of their rights get all the attention this session. Now Republicans have a chance to make an actual difference by fixing their screw-up.”
The libertarian Tennessee Center for Policy Research, meanwhile, called on Haslam and Republican legislators to refuse to revive the benefits.
“While it is touted as a measure to ‘protect’ the unemployed, this proposal is bad for everyone,” said TCPR president Justin Owen. “It strips taxpayers of an additional $60 million that our state and federal government don’t have to spend. It also harms the very unemployed who are stuck in a rut. We need to be throwing them a rope, not dumping buckets of water on them.”