JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Tuesday that would reduce the number of weeks people could receive unemployment benefits by linking their duration to the state's unemployment rate.
Nixon's veto returns the bill to the Republican-controlled Legislature, where leaders have said they plan to try to override the Democratic governor. The measure could reduce unemployment benefits from the current 20 weeks to as low as 13 weeks when unemployment dips below 6 percent.
Unemployment benefits provide help for Missouri residents looking for their next job and put money into local economies, Nixon said in a statement.
"Supporters of this bill have forgotten that workers earn these insurance benefits by working, and that tough economic times often last longer than a mere 13 weeks," he said.
The bill would link the maximum number of weeks to the statewide average employment rate for prior months. An unemployment rate of over 9 percent would be needed to receive 20 weeks of benefits.
Republicans hold at least a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, which is the mark needed to override vetoes. But the measure got just 88 votes — well shy of the 109 needed for an override — when it was sent to the governor last month.
When Nixon vetoed a similar measure last year, it fell two votes short of an override in the House.
This year's bill also would increase the amount the state could hold in its unemployment insurance trust fund. It would also encourage a state board to consider alternative mechanisms besides borrowing from the federal government when that fund runs out of money.
Employers lose out on part of a federal tax credit when the state owes the federal government money for unemployment benefits. Missouri borrowed from the federal government in 2009 and paid it off last year. Business groups say the changes would bring needed stability to the fund and help avoid additional fees in the future.
Unemployment bill is HB150.