Livid after Gov. Napolitano vetoed a sensible and balanced unemployment insurance bill on which lawmakers had labored for months, state Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, is regrouping for battle. She's come up with what could be a winning strategy.
The original bill, which Allen shepherded through the Legislature, would have increased jobless benefits while also enacting reforms to keep unemployment insurance from becoming a welfare program. One reform would have required people to work at least 20 weeks of a 52-week period and to have earned at least $1,500 in any one quarter to qualify.
Those aren't unreasonable requirements. And for those who don't meet them, other assistance is available through welfare programs, which also can assist the chronically unemployed with job training and transportation.
Although the measure would have raised the maximum jobless benefit to $230 from $205 next month, and by another $10 in one year, Napolitano caved to pressure from unions, which don't like the reforms. Allen said she expects the unions to put an initiative on the 2004 ballot that raised the benefit without reforming the system.
Allen says she wants her colleagues to approve the original bill again and send it to Napolitano — just in case she's had second thoughts about her veto. (The governor's spokeswoman, Kris Mayes, says the same bill will meet the same fate.)
But Allen also wants the Legislature to put the measure on the 2004 ballot, right alongside the union initiative. That would give voters a choice, and there's nothing wrong with that.
There will be ample time to debate the pros and cons of each measure. If Arizona voters want unemployment insurance to grow into a costly welfare system for the chronically unemployed, they can vote for the union-sponsored measure. If they want it reformed so it remains a true insurance program for those who fine themselves jobless through no fault of their own, they can vote for the Legislature-sponsored measure.