Hale decries GOP blockage of jobless benefits proposal

By Bill Donovan

Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 17, 2011

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Arizona State Rep. Albert Hale isn't too proud of the Republican majority in the state Legislature this week.

Hale, D-Window Rock, said he and fellow Democrats tried Friday and Monday to get Republicans to agree to a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for another 20 weeks.

Benefits for an estimated 15,000 Arizonians are scheduled to expire Saturday, June 18, but when the House of Representatives met Friday in special session to address the situation, it grew into a Republican vs. Democrat battle with the Republicans saying that extending the benefits would only put a further drain on the federal budget.

But Hale and the other Democrats argued that the money had already been set aside in the federal budget to pay for a benefit extension. The Democrats also pointed out that employers have already paid into the unemployment compensation fund, so no new monies would be needed.

The House was unable to reach an agreement Friday, so another special session was held Monday where Republicans again refused to budge on extending jobless benefits.

Instead, they passed a resolution urging the National Football League to schedule another Super Bowl in Arizona in the near future.

"There was nothing we as Democrats could do about it," Hale said. "The Republicans have the numbers and control the House."

Hale said the bill would affect some Navajos, though he wasn't sure how many. He said he did know that a number of Navajos are among those whose benefits are expiring, and the state's job picture is still dismal.

"These people needed our help," he said.

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