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Susan Wagle, chair of the Senate Commerce committee, simply can’t help herself. She can’t keep herself from going after workers rights and continuously doing everything she can to make big business happy while workers get left behind. She wants more votes that benefit employers, and she won’t have legislation in 2012 denying her those precious pro-business votes she’s counting on a decade from now.

The latest attack on Kansas workers passed out of the Senate Commerce committee today. House Bill 2638 – which cuts benefits for unemployed workers and also cuts employers contributions to the unemployment trust fund – was amended with the approval of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Literally amended with the approval of the Kansas Chamber. You see Sen. Wagle wasn’t exactly sure about how amendments would play out so she invited the Kansas Chamber of Commerce lobbyist, Eric Stafford, to the podium to ensure that she got the chamber’s nod before allowing the bill to move forward.

Where was the worker’s voice in all of this? We were in the back of the room like we are every Senate Commerce committee meeting and Sen. Wagle did her best not to make eye contact.

Wagle, was disturbed that the bill would set in statute a new mechanism for determining when and how employers should have their UI rates lowered. However it is important to note that Senator Wagle is confident that when the time is right the Kansas Legislature will lower the rates for employers all on their own.

In other words, they don’t need to lower the bar in statute because that would take all of the fun out of giving out tax breaks themselves!

And her partners in crime the Kansas Chamber of Commerce accepted their plight on this issue but somehow could not see the logic behind supporting Sen. Tom Holland’s proposed amendment to keep new businesses at the same UI rate as existing businesses. To them, that $4.5 million tax break – on which Kansas businesses have to pay interest since the Trust Fund is borrowing from the feds – is sound fiscal policy.

That’s right. Not only does HB 2638 lower the amount of money placed into the UI Trustfund by businesses but it completely ignores the fact that currently Kansas has borrowed $100 million from the Federal Government in order to pay out the current UI benefits. As in the State of Kansas is borrowing Federal dollars in order to fulfill the current UI payments to Kansas workers and instead of working to make our UI trust fund stable Wagle and her partners at the Kansas Chamber decided we should pay less into the fund, only digging us further into debt.

Needless to say, Holland’s subsequent mention of the blatant attacks on workers – denying unemployment benefits until severance payments (including wages that are earned during employment but paid out in that lump sum) – was met with shrugs from the chair.

Committee members followed up their attack on working Kansans with a rowdy debate on prison made goods, which was apparently much more controversial than giving employers a $4.5M tax break while contriving a new way to prevent paying out UI benefits to unemployed Kansans looking for work. Though on prisoners bill they did manage to provide jobs for prison inmates to build building for state agencies to use, out of concern that prion inmates had nothing to do currently.

But at least Susan Wagle spared the committee from denying future Senators that crucial tax cut vote they are all counting on.

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