Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Panel Approves Unemployment Tax Bill

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Panel Approves Unemployment Tax Bill

Article excerpt

A bill that would save Oklahoma employers $59.2 million in reduced taxes from next July through December 1999 was approved Tuesday by the House Commerce, Industry and Labor Committee.

House Bill 2792, by Rep. Lloyd L. Fields, D-McAlester, would cut the unemployment tax contribution rate assigned to an employer by 50 percent for that 18-month period.

However, the rate paid by most employers, 0.1 percent, would be reduced to zero. The maximum earned tax rate would be cut from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent. The lowest tax rate is paid by about 43,500 businesses, or about 72 percent of Oklahoma employers. The top rate is paid by about 690 companies. The tax was cut by 25 percent last year. Like this year's proposal, that reduction was made possible by the robust fiscal health of the trust fund, the balance of which tops now $600 million. Under the bill, the tax reduction would not come into play in any year during which a "conditional factor" is levied against employers due to an economic downturn. State law provides for a series of conditional factors to be assessed, increasing employers' contributions rates by a certain percentage, depending upon the balance in the trust fund. State law provides for a series of conditional factors to be assessed, increasing employers' contributions rates by a certain percentage, depending upon the balance in the trust fund. The bill also changes calculation of the maximum benefit amount allowed by state law, 26 times the weekly benefit amount of the claimant to the lesser of 26 weeks or: * 25 percent of the state's average annual wage under no conditional factor. * 23.75 percent under condition "a." * 22.5 percent under condition "b." * 21.25 percent under condition "c." * 20 percent under condition "d." Roger Jacks, program chief for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, said increasing the maximum benefit amount could cost $24. …

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