By MAUREEN O’HARA
Capital News Service
LANSING — With higher education expenses continuing to soar, new introduced legislation would provide tax credits for unemployed parents with children in college.
The $2,500 credit would be offered to any parent who claims a child as dependent.
“In a time of economic hardship, it is essential for the state to help families contain costs,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Gene DeRossett, R-Manchester. “This provides temporary relief for families trying to pay college tuition while looking for work.”
Peter Wills, legislative aide to DeRossett, contends that while current economic turmoil has left a lot of people with concerns about job security, the bill does not focus on those who fit a certain class description.
“It doesn’t discriminate against blue-or white-collar families,” he said. “This is an issue of unemployment that encompasses all instances, whether the person works in a factory or in an office setting.
“College tuition is an additional burden for all.”
The tax credit proposal is part of a Republican push to assist unemployed workers with increasing benefits and offering better access to training programs.
The House had initially passed an increase of $75 from $300, the amount at which the Legislature froze benefits in 1995.
Tax reductions for employers who have not laid off any employees in five or more years are also included measures in the bill. Along with the college tax-credit provision, the legislative package waives penalties and interest on tardy income tax payments owed by unemployed workers, if the returns are filed on time.
“This is great news for Michigan workers,” said Rep. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. “The total benefits workers collect under the new plan are substantially higher than those collected now.”
Approved legislation in the Senate Wednesday raised the bar for maximum unemployment benefits to $415, causing some lawmakers’ view on unemployment to sharply differ.
Included in the new version of the bill is a so-called shift waiting week, altering the previous House provision which paid no attention to a penalty period of a week before receiving benefits or to the number of an unemployed worker’s dependents.
The House had initially increased benefits by only $75 a week, from $300 to a maximum $375. Party lines have caused a sharp division of who favors which proposal.
While the Democrats support the increase in benefits without the waiting week, legislators on the other side are worried that the high levels of benefits might risk bankrupting the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, possibly leading to higher payroll taxes for small businesses.
Sen. Joe Schwarz, R-Battle Creek, was one of few Republicans who agreed with Democrats in opposing the “waiting week.”
“We’re talking about people who don’t have a lot of money,” Schwarz said. “I don’t think the bill awarded enough of an increase.”
Despite the Senate version being “not broad enough” for Schwarz’s liking, he thinks the final product will be better than the one passed Wednesday night.
“These are jobs that are being sequestered back into the economy,” he said. “The money goes back into the economy and people spend it. $315 is not enough.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By MAUREEN O’HARA