State Senate backs job training fund

The state Senate agreed last week to give the Department of Employment Security the funding it wants when it comes to job training and administration, but not without a little debate.

The agency sought to double the amount it gets out of the unemployment tax – a tenth of a percent, or some $4.3 million – in order to provide $1 million for the training program, and some $3.3 million to prevent cutbacks in field offices.

The training programs – which would be aimed at employed workers to enhance their skills in case of layoffs – had been tied to the size of the unemployment trust fund. But the trust fund never made it to the revenue threshold — some $275 million – required.

Sen. Ted Gatsas, R-Manchester, said he had no trouble with the job training program, but he questioned why the department needed another $3.3 million when it was running a deficit of some $1.6 million.

When it was pointed out that any left over money would go back to the state, Gatsas said, “If you give a department more money, chances are they will find reasons to spend it.”

Instead, said Gatsas, why not just lower the threshold so the jobs fund would be funded and deal with the administration issue separately.

Sen Joe Kenney, R-Union, introduced an amendment to lower the threshold to $250 million, but it failed on a 15-7 vote. He argued that it was important to have some threshold to protect the fund. The lower the fund is allowed to go, the higher the unemployment tax, he emphasized.

David Gottesman, D-Nashua, said the department needs to be staffed adequately to make sure that the fund doesn’t drop. He said the department has done a good job in getting people back to work, with an average jobless duration of 11.5 weeks compared to national duration of 15.5 weeks.

After the amendment failed, the Senate passed the bill onto the House on a 23-0 vote. – BOB SANDERS

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