LANSING – State Representative David E. Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) on Wednesday cast a “no” vote against legislation that would make deep cuts to unemployment compensation for displaced workers beginning in 2012. The House passed the legislation by a 65-44 vote late Wednesday evening.

“I am troubled by the implications of this proposed cut to support for Michigan’s displaced workers and their families,” Rutledge said. “No one denies that the national economic downturn has devastated our state’s economy, and as a result thousands of Michiganders are out of work through no fault of their own. This bill permanently diminishes state support for those displaced workers, cutting off help when people and their families need it most.”

The plan passed Wednesday cuts benefits available to Michigan’s unemployed workers from 26 to 20 weeks starting next year in order to pay for a tax break for big business, which contribute to unemployment benefits. To make matters worse, because of the bill passed yesterday, Michigan could lose out on federally funded benefits in 2012 because federal benefits are based on a percentage of the underlying state benefits. The Republican House leadership suspended the House rules Wednesday to consider the bill, which was rushed through the Legislature in one day with no committee debate.

“I support the part of this bill that would draw on federal dollars to extend assistance to thousands of unemployed Michiganders through December of this year,” Rutledge said. “And, I recognize that business owners have experienced painful increases in unemployment insurance costs. This bill was made toxic when Republican leadership threw in a new limit starting in 2012, missing an opportunity to protect displaced workers and grant much-needed relief to businesses by lowering the unemployment insurance taxable wage amount.”

The plan was attached to a bill that temporarily allows Michigan’s extended unemployment benefits to continue by using federal dollars. House Democrats have been fighting to pass the legislation, which if not passed by this Friday, March 25, will cause an estimated 150,000 unemployed Michigan workers to lose their extended benefits, according to the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA). An alternative proposal to address the stabilization of the unemployment system in the state was rejected without debate.

“This change will hurt displaced workers and their families, at a time when the state unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation,” said Rutledge. The change will make Michigan the only state in the nation to reduce unemployment benefits. “State government should be working to help those out of work. Instead, this plan slashes assistance to those who need it.”

The legislation will next be submitted to the Governor for his signature.