Gov. Brewer Calls Special Session To Extend Unemployment Benefits, But State Republicans Refuse

Earlier this week, Danielle Lazarowitz reported that Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC), fed up with a recalcitrant legislature, issued an executive order to preserve unemployment benefits for residents in her state. This contradicted efforts on the part of conservatives in several states to gut unemployment benefits, even with long-term unemployment levels higher than they were during the Great Depression.

And Perdue now has an unlikely ally. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) — notorious for signing Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB-1070, and for propagating false stories about beheadings in the Arizona desert — called a special session of the Arizona legislature today to try to ensure that Arizonans don’t have their benefits cut off:

“Extending benefits for the unemployed is the right thing to do both for our local economy and for Arizona families,” said Governor Brewer. “For our economy, these federal dollars represent an immediate cash infusion of nearly $3.5 million a week as recipients spend on necessities like food, rent and clothing. For as many as 45,000 Arizonans in need, these federal dollars may mean the difference between making the rent and living on the streets.” […]

“The Legislature and I have taken concrete steps in recent months to turn Arizona’s economy around, and we’ve begun to see a lot of positive indicators,” said Governor Brewer. “But with the state unemployment rate still at 9.3 percent — and even higher in many rural areas — we can’t pretend there aren’t thousands of our fellow citizens who remain jobless and in need of assistance.

Brewer, while wrong about so many things, is right on the money here. In a horrible job market, unemployment benefits provide a vital lifeline to workers who are out of work and can’t find a job through no fault of their own. As we’ve shown, unemployment benefits are critical to boosting the economy and reducing poverty.

However, the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature refused to play along, abandoning the special session this afternoon without extending benefits. “It’s shocking that we’re not going to fix this today,” said the state’s House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (D).

At the moment, eight states (Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Kansas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia are about to see their benefits expire. Other states, like Michigan and Florida, are actively cutting back on benefits. Brewer is on the right side of this issue, and the rest of Arizona’s lawmakers should join her.