Senate Dems Claim Victory on Unemployment Benefits Extension

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, May 21, 2011:

Democrats succeed in extending unemployment benefits for 28,000 Tennesseans; restoring health care cuts

NASHVILLE – The state Senate passed a $30.8 billion budget Saturday that fully funds education, restores health care cuts and extends unemployment benefits for 28,000 Tennesseans.

“The modifications to the budget proposed by Democrats minimize painful cuts, provide all basic services and offer help to 28,000 Tennesseans who are still looking for a job,” said Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson.

House Bill 2139 includes the state budget for July 2011-June 2012, the state’s fiscal year. The Senate passed the legislation 32-0.

Senate and House Democrats worked successfully to restore $82.7 million in health care cuts, with $15.6 million in guaranteed restorations for minority health initiatives and emergency room doctor reimbursements, among other services. Another $67.1 million in restorations are at least partially contingent on federal matching funds.

Democrats also secured funds for $60 million in federal unemployment benefits to 28,000 Tennesseans. The 20-week extension, sponsored by Sen. Finney, will provide $120 million in economic impact across the state of Tennessee, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates.

“We have a brewery in Memphis that had 500 jobs and 20,000 applicants in the first two weeks,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis. “Tennesseans haven’t stopped looking for work. We shouldn’t stop working for them.”

The budget also includes funds for $150 million in bonds for a $3 billion expansion at Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville. The investment is expected to create 900 new jobs at the facility.

“Hemlock has already provided many high-quality jobs and is encouraging entrepreneurial growth throughout our area,” said Sen. Tim Barnes, who represents Clarksville. “This investment is going to pay big dividends for our county, the region and the statewide economy.”

The budget will go to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature. The Senate continued to work Saturday to finish its work for the legislative session.