Carolyn Logue is among those who commended Gov. Gary Locke for signing HB 3077 into law, halting scheduled increases in the unemployment insurance tax.

“This tax increase was needless in light of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund surplus,” said Logue, the director of the Washington NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business). “The people who provide Washington with 80 percent of its jobs can exhale a little, but a lot more needs to be done in reforming the entire unemployment insurance system.”

After signing the bipartisan measure into law, Locke noted that it also will provide millions of dollars in help to laid-off workers needing training for new jobs.

“This is an important piece of our strategy to help dislocated workers transition into high-skill jobs,” he said. “At the same time, this bill affords employers a significant tax cut. Both are good for the economy as a whole.”

The bill was drafted after extended negotiations among business and labor groups and Republicans and Democrats from both houses of the Legislature.

“We all worked together on this one,” said Locke. “You can see the result—a very good piece of economic policy that benefits real people.”

The measure:

Provides $140 million over six years in additional training benefits to laid-off timber, fish, aerospace and other workers who are enrolled in retraining programs for high-demand fields. Aerospace, timber and fish workers will qualify for up to 74 weeks of benefits until June 2002 and up to 52 weeks through June 2005. Others will qualify for up to 52 weeks throughout the same six-year period.

Cancels a 23 percent increase in the unemployment tax due in April.

Cuts the unemployment tax for most Washington employers, saving them a total of $576 million over the next six years.

The state Department of Employment Security estimates 20,000 dislocated workers will benefit from the extended benefits and retraining programs.