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Republican lawmakers want to change state's unemployment insurance program


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin still owes almost $1 billion that the state borrowed from the federal government to provided expanded unemployment benefits during the Great Recession.

Now, a group of Republican state lawmakers is offering a package of 30 reforms designed to keep the benefit fund solvent in future crises. Germantown Representative Dan Knodl said it would root out fraud, waste, and abuse of the benefit system.

Right now, there are 18 situations in which employees can voluntarily quit a job and still collect jobless benefits. The GOP bill would reduce that to 8. And it would put new restrictions on those fired for committing crimes against their employers, like embezzlement.

Knodl said he’s heard of companies that had to approve jobless benefits for their fired criminals, just because the issue was not addressed in their employee handbooks. The package would also pay down what the state owes to Washington.

Tax funds would cover $36 million of interest, and the state would borrow to pay back some of the $900 million that’s owed. Knodl says businesses are paying $60,000 a day just to cover the interest.

The lawmakers sent their proposal to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, even though many changes would have to be approved by the Legislature and governor.