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Rep. Brian Kelsey has just issued a press release to denounce Gov. Phil Bredesen for accepting $140 million in federal stimulus money to expand benefits for laid-off workers. According to Kelsey, whose understanding of this situation is a little shaky, "This decision will surely lead to a tax increase in Tennessee. This money comes with strings attached that will bankrupt our unemployment insurance fund."
Kelsey notes that Tennessee will grant unemployment insurance benefits to part-time employees for the first time in state history. Also, Kelsey points out the funds require an increase in payments to full-time employees. OK, that's a good thing, right? Not in Kelsey's world. He continues:
"Our state will blow through the $141 million from the federal government in one month, and Tennesseans will be stuck paying for increased benefits for years," continued Rep. Kelsey. "It is fiscally irresponsible to tax Tennessee workers in the middle of a recession to pay for an expansion in government benefits. Now is the time for state government to be tightening its belt, not loosening it."
Now is also the time for Kelsey to check his facts. As Bredesen explained
only this morning, Tennessee's unemployment benefits are so pathetically low that the $140 million actually could last nearly an entire decade. So no tax increase will be necessary at least until then.
As you may recall, Kelsey's pushing a resolution urging the governor to reject all the stimulus money. That's $4.5 billion that Kelsey thinks we should spurn as a matter of principle, namely that we shouldn't help unemployed people because there aren't very many of them in Germantown.
"I still plan to move forward with House Joint Resolution 150 and with legislation to accomplish the same goal," Kelsey says.