UC funding bill heads to Wolf’s desk

UC funding bill heads to Wolf’s desk

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 13, 2017/Categories: News and Views

In one of the last major pieces of legislation awaiting completion by the General Assembly prior to the end of 2017, the state Senate passed legislation aimed at providing an “exit ramp” for ending state funding of unemployment compensation system upgrades by a vote of 43-5.


The bill, House Bill 1915, is sponsored by House Labor and Industry Committee Majority Chairman Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin) and represents a compromise between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats that provides an exit strategy for the state to get out of funding technology upgrades while still ensuring enough funding to complete the ongoing project.


Specifically, over a four-year period the state will provide $115.2 million for the technology upgrades while transitioning to a budget that has the ongoing costs of operating the state UC system carried by federal funding of $130 million per year.


While the legislation passed the chamber overwhelmingly, it was not without some vocal opposition.


Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), whose vocal opposition to short term funding for technology upgrades for the system at the end of last session led to the legislature looking at the current reform measure, opposed the measure as not being enough to get Pennsylvania out of funding failed technology upgrades.


“This is not about laying people off or putting people back to work, this bill and my issues in opposing this bill has to do with the amount of money that has been spent over a ten-year period and lack of accountability on the part of Labor and Industry,” he said.


“It is now a system of dependency requiring reauthorization of the legislature every few years. Overall, with House Bill 1915, the state will have invested close to $500 million into call centers with no guarantee that long-term solutions will be in place by 2021, which means no accountability.”


The legislation now heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk.


The governor’s office stated Wednesday that he intends to sign the legislation.


"Gov. Wolf will sign this bill. We have worked collaboratively with the department and committees to improve the UC system and this funding is essential," said Gov. Wolf's press secretary JJ Abbott.


"While more and permanent funding would have helped improve service delivery and certainty, we appreciate the efforts of all involved to get this bill done."