Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, won passage of House Bill 1933 from the full Senate Tuesday, moving the measure closer to becoming law.
The legislation would index Oklahoma’s unemployment benefits, effectively ending unemployment tax increases on Oklahoma businesses. This system would adjust how the state pays unemployment compensation to a tiered system based upon the number of weekly claims. This means individuals would qualify for more weeks of benefits when the economy is performing poorly, and less weeks of benefits when the economy is strong.
Taylor said transitioning to this system would stabilize the unemployment insurance (UI) fund, get people back to work twice as fast and lower tax rates.
“Lower unemployment taxes allow employers to hire more people and increase wages, a critical component to help address the state’s dire workforce shortage,” Taylor said. “Indexing benefits would lower UI tax rates from $2.80 to $1.90 per $1,000 of wages in just five years while increasing Oklahoma’s UI fund by $324 million in just three years. That’s smart business sense I believe all Oklahomans should be able to get behind.”
Projections show program dependency could drop by 35% in four years, moving an UI enrollee’s average time on unemployment from 13.4 weeks to 8.7 weeks.
Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, is the House principal author of the bill.
"This legislation strengthens Oklahoma's unemployment system, making it healthier," Martinez said. "It ensures our rates remain reasonable and that when benefits are needed, they are there. It also helps incentivize Oklahomans to return to the work force filling the large number of job openings that currently are available."
HB 1933 moves back to the House of Representatives for final approval due to a Senate amendment. If approved by the House, it will head to the governor’s desk for his signature.