During the 123rd Legislature, an unprecedented alliance of legislators, business leaders, workers’ advocates and labor officials drafted a new law to strengthen Maine’s business climate and to train Maine’s work force by reducing taxes paid by business, initiating a skilled work force training program and retooling unemployment benefits.
This landmark legislation will strengthen Maine’s economy in a time of national slowdown.
The legislation returns $68 million in unemployment taxes to business throughout the current biennium by reducing the rates businesses pay. The rate reduction represents an average savings to employers of $75 per employee per year.
The law also establishes the “Competitive Skills Scholarship” Program which provides access to education, training and support through the Department of Labor’s Career Centers. This program prepares Mainers for high wage jobs in industries with significant demand for skilled labor.
Career Centers around the state, including our own CareerCenter on Route 2 in Wilton, are partnering with local businesses to determine what kinds of skills and employees businesses are looking for and to implement certificate programs and training programs tailored to those needs.
Mainers are known for our superior work ethic. Combining that work ethic with cutting edge skills promises to attract good paying jobs to our state.
The new law also eliminates the so-called “pension offset” which took away unemployment benefits for people who receive social security or other pension benefits. This provision allows seniors to collect the full unemployment benefits due them without penalizing them for having reached retirement age—without docket them for their hard-earned pension payments.
Finally the new legislation retains unemployment benefits for part-time workers, prorated according to their previous earnings and average work hours and dependent on their continued availability for employment. Part-time benefits had been put into place several years ago, with a sunset that depended on how those benefits might affect rates. The sunset on this provision, scheduled for repeal in September 2008, was no longer considered necessary; so part-time employees who are laid off continue to be eligible for partial benefits.
I was pleased that business interests and labor worked together on this bill, which received a unanimous committee report and was enacted without opposition in the House or Senate.
Good news for Maine!
As always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on legislative matters. It is a privilege to represent you and to make your voice heard in the Maine State Legislature.
Rep. Janet T. Mills
Farmington & Industry