The Senate may be squeezing the House on priority legislation from Speaker Chris Sprowls to force a compromise on unemployment benefits.
A revamp of the state’s consumer-facing workforce programs was a feature of Sprowls’ agenda. Two bills would streamline and add accountability to CareerSource after a federal audit revealed weaknesses in the system that guides the state’s workforce development. The House passed the bills with fanfare this week. Sprowls gave blueprints to give to each legislator outlining how the 140-page legislation would change career development in the state.
The House budget proposal has $2 million allocated for the workforce revamp.
But in the Senate’s first budget offer in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development & Infrastructure, there is no money allocated for that item. Instead, the Senate has $36 million allocated for the unemployment assistance backlog, an item the House leaves out.
Sen. George Gainer, Senate budget chief for that committee, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he thinks the Senate could use the discrepancy as leverage.
“You’ll find a lot of that because it’s very early on in the budget talks,” Gainer said. “I’m pretty sure the House is going to work with us on that, but I don’t want to speak for them.”
Rep. Jayer Williamson, acting as budget chief on that committee for the House, said the workforce revamp will remain a priority.
“Obviously, we had it in the House and want to, you know, keep holding on that,” Williamson said. “We’ll look at it and we’ll go from there.”
Unemployment assistance has been an area the House and Senate have differed.
A Senate bill (SB 1906) ready for the floor of the upper chamber would increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefits from $275 to $375 and increase the duration of unemployment benefits from 12 to 14 weeks. That would come from the state’s unemployment trust fund.
The House has no companion legislation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis ducked questions Friday about his stance on the assistance.
Sen. Jason Brodeur sponsors the Senate bill.
“We’re going to continue to work through the process and hope we can convince the Governor of the need,” Brodeur said.