Madden Forms ‘UI Task Force’ To Craft Long-Term Solutions For State’s Unemployment Fund

Panel Will Include Equal Representation from Business and Labor

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Fred Madden today announced that he is creating an eight-member task force to craft recommendations for returning the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund to health while protecting businesses and the jobless.

The task force will be equally represented by the business and labor communities. Its creation comes two days before a scheduled vote on a bill to significantly limit the impact of a scheduled increase in the employer share of the state’s UI tax.

“Especially now, when businesses already are struggling to rebound from the recent recession, the scheduled UI tax increase could not only stunt statewide recovery but actually drive some employers out of business altogether,” said Madden (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This task force must begin seeking ways to bring better long-term stability to the UI system that will not hurt currently unemployed beneficiaries or impede New Jersey’s ability to eliminate fraud and maximize federal funding.”

Madden has invited business representatives from the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, and labor representatives from the state AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the New Jersey Building Trades Council to form the core of the task force. Madden also has asked acting state Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Hal Wirths and Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations Associate Dean Steven Director to join the group.

Madden said he would attend the task force’s meetings and has also invited Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris) — the Labor Committee’s ranking Republican member — to participate in its discussions.

Madden is sponsor of the legislation to short-circuit the scheduled $1 billion business tax increase on employers to fund the UI Fund. The bill (S-1813) would allow the UI tax schedule to advance only one column in the upcoming fiscal year, providing $700 million in immediate relief to businesses. The delay also would give the state the ability to reassess its economic conditions next year before deciding the proper direction for returning the UI Trust Fund to solvency.

Madden said he hopes the task force will be able to recommend specific legislation that could address the needs of the business community for predictability in the UI tax while also ensuring that the unemployed receive their full share of benefits. New Jersey is one of only three states where employees pay into the UI fund.

“The best policy comes from a cooperative and apolitical approach to the problems we face and the UI Trust Fund could surely benefit from that same type of critical thinking,” said Madden.

Madden said he expects the task force to hold its first meeting in early June.