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Life Insurance and Annuities Martin Elfant, CLU 4223 Richmond, Suite 213, Houston, TX 77027 SoYILife THE POLITICIAN THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LYNDON JOHNSON The Drive for Power from the Frontier to Master of the Senate By RONNIE MINER Send us $20 and we will send you an autoName graphed copy of Ronnie Dugger’s acclaimed book on Lyndon Johnson. \(Postage included; Address City State Zip The Texas Observer 600 West 7th Austin, Texas 78701 And neither will the law just passed by the legislature, Ward claims. Gov. Clements said the bill has saved Texas employers an estimated $1.4 billion in 1983. But in order for the new law to live up to its reputation, Ward says “you have to end the recession in June 1983, and if the recession doesn’t end then, it doesn’t work.” Galveston Rep. Lloyd Criss, vice chairman of the House Committee on Employment Practices, said whether the bill will be effective or not “is going to depend solely on the economy and the employment rate. The bill is based on the assumption that the economy is going to get better, and if it does, this will be pretty close to a permanent solution … If the economy continues to get worse, I don’t think this bill is going to work.” Ward’s term expires in November and the commissioner said he is afraid the TEC “is going to be mistreated when the legislators realize they are going to have to pass another tax increase” in January. Discussing the complexities of the employment fund was not nearly as sexy as lambasting the governor over the session’s timing, and wringing hands over the need to borrow from the dreaded federal government. Although the 54-hour-and-14-minute session was the shortest on record since a one-hour session in 1923, it was also the fourth time the 67th legislature has convened. The Guv came under criticism on grounds a Nov. 13, 1981, letter from the TEC should have alerted him to problems with the fund. Criss’ staff had issued a 15-page report on its difficulties in January. Spokesmen for the governor’s office said Clements had never seen the November letter and Attorney General Mark White promptly accused him of “a crisis-to-crisis approach to government.” The 106-30 vote of approval in the House and the Senate aye of 22-6 indicated the skids had been pretty well greased on behalf of the legislation. The major moves of opposition came from those opposed to federal borrowing. Salado Rep. Stan Schlueter proposed using state instead of federal revenues and was defeated 68-68. Austin Sen. Lloyd Doggett and Dallas Sen. John Leedom also favored use of state funds as opposed to what Doggett called “the forbidden fruit of deficit finance.” Port Arthur Sen. Carl Parker, sponsoring the leadership’s bill in the Senate, probably summed up the feelings of many good folks when he declared he was tired of hearing people talk about the federal government “as if it were a foreign power. We aren’t trying to borrow money from Russia. It’s our tax money.” There was not much discussion during the session itself on the issue of whether the Texas system of unemployment benefits is particularly fair to the unemployed. According to the House Study Group, Texas taxes its employers at the lowest rate nationwide, with an average tax of $36 per employee per year. However, the majority of Texas employers pay only the $6 per employee minimum. Benefits last 26 weeks and new regulations severely limit benefits to persons who were fired or quit without good cause. Criss said Texas unemployment benefits are “really about average” but that he believes the state should pay something more like $200 a week. “I do not think a person out of work can sustain _life and family on $147 a week for very long not with current utility rates,” he said. Joe Gunn, secretary-treasurer of Texas AFL-CIO and a former TEC commissioner, said while he is “not totally pleased with the amount of benefits,” the scheduled increase to $168 in October represents substantial progress. He recalls that only ten years ago, benefits totalled $63 a week. Gunn favors extension of the 26week period and so does Criss. State law at present would require nearly 15% unemployment in order for benefits to be extended past 26 weeks, Criss said. He said there is another problem posed by the “GOP-in-fested Department of Labor” which is using “creative” arithmetic to report a gradual decline in joblessness in Texas. Criss said he assumes the aim is “to make Ronald Reagan look better.” TEC claims transactions totaled 613,000 in June and rose to 805,000 in August. But the Labor Department reported Texas unemployment was on the decline. Its figures show 7.7% in June and 7.0% in August. Criss said he believes unemployment in Texas is nearer to 10%. Gunn said in his opinion the Texas unemployment system is .”unfair both to the workers and to small employers. Small employers get hit with a large amount of tax and don’t have a lawyer or accountant to keep up with how to deal with it.” Senate Bill 2 passed in the last regular session removes discretion of the TEC to take away portions of the total benefits, if it is determined a person quit without reason or was fired. Now an all or nothing decision has to be made. Gunn likened it to sentencing an employee to capital punishment for a minor infraction. Ward said, “I can give you a million different horror stories” about people affected by SB 2, including several incidents of persons he said were denied benefits when they quit to take care of a spouse or parent with cancer. “What you’ve got to remember is when we pay a claimant unemployment conipensation, they take that check and go to Safeway and HEB and pay their utility bills and car notes, if they can,” Ward said. “They don’t pocket that money. It goes right back to the same employers that were taxed. In many ways, what it does is to delay layoffs of more workers.” Former Observer reporter Mary Lenz is studying economics at UT-Austin. 4 OCTOBER 1, 1982