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Thursday, October 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 40.0° F  Overcast
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Unemployment benefits stalled by Wisconsin legislature
Barca: 'There's no reason we couldn't have gotten this done.'
Barca: 'There's no reason we couldn't have gotten this done.'
Credit:Brent Nicastro

Unless legislators are called into a special session, a bill authorizing a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits likely won't be introduced until the Legislature reconvenes in September, some say.

"They called a special session for the special interests," says Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). "Why can't they call one to help the unemployed people who are hurting? There is no reason why we couldn't have gotten this done."

In April, Wisconsin received $89 million in federal money to provide additional aid to some 10,000 residents who'd exhausted their combined state and federal unemployment benefits. In response, Gov. Scott Walker told the state's Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, "I am of the mindset that further extension of benefits won't create a single job or encourage citizens to rejoin the workforce."

Other Republican lawmakers have made similar claims.

Barca says this view is nonsense. "I don't know any people who want to stay on unemployment," he says. "It doesn't pay that much."

On June 23, the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council voted 9-0 to endorse the 13-week extension, but the legislative session ended before action could be taken.

Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), says the governor and the Republican leadership have now agreed to back the extension, but have no firm plans as to when they'll take action. "Right now, it's just a matter of timing," Welhouse says.

A source close to the Republican leadership tells Isthmus that the Legislature will likely reconvene this month in a special session once scheduling conflicts are sorted out. The source didn't want to be named because there is a "very small chance" the effort could fall apart.

Barca, meanwhile, is growing impatient.

"I sure hope we're not going to make people wait until September," he says. "In light of the budget, which hurt working-class people very much, to make them wait so long is really unfortunate."

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