Florida Democrats hit GOP on unemployment & minimum wage



Democratic Representative Cynthia Stafford talks about her minimum wage bill in Tallahassee
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  • Democratic Representative Cynthia Stafford talks about her minimum wage bill in Tallahassee
On the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty speech, Florida Democrats in Washington attacked Republicans for failing to support an extension of unemployment benefits, while Democrats in Tallahassee introduced new legislation that would raise the minimum wage in the Sunshine State.

Specifically state Senator Dwight Bullard (D-Collier County) and Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Miami Dade County) have introduced SB 456 and HB 385, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, including those who work as tipped employees. Currently, Florida’s minimum wage is $7.91, and just $4.91 for tipped workers.

Meanwhile in Washington, Democratic Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kathy Castor and Joe Garcia held a conference call where they called on Republicans to support legislation extending unemployment benefits for over a million Americans (and 77,000 Floridians) that expired at the beginning of the year — without finding cuts somewhere else in the budget.

"Offsets are not appropriate," Wasserman Schultz said today. She said that the White House is willing to consider budget offsets for a longer term extension, but not for the three month deal that is being floated right now in the Senate. She added that the fact that so many Republicans (including Marco Rubio) voted against even continuing the discussion on the bill on Monday makes clear that, "they care more about their party's rigid, extreme ideology than providing a bridge to the unemployed as they get back on their feet."

Congresswoman Castor said that Democrats in the House actually did offer an amendment in the Paul Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal to extend unemployment benefits with an offset, but it was shot down by the GOP.

Castor also piled on Governor Rick Scott and the GOP-led Florida Legislature, calling them just about "the stingiest in the country" when it comes to the number of weeks of unemployment insurance available (Florida now offers 16 months of unemployment benefits, reduced from 19 months ). And she blasted the state for the problems with its unemployment website, which has made national news in recent days, calling it a "debacle" and a "disaster" for the families who need those funds to help them with basic necessities as they continue to search for a job.

The Tampa-based Representative also lashed out at the recently passed Ryan-Murray budget bill, saying "there wasn't one corporation — one tax loophole — that was closed to provide for a balanced budget." She said she'd continued to fight for working class people to "win one for a change."

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