Patricia Jehlen

Patricia Jehlen 

A proposal to limit the massive increases in unemployment taxes businesses face in the new year cleared a key Beacon Hill hurdle and could be in motion on the final day of the lawmaking session.

The Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted unanimously late on Monday to advance Gov. Charlie Baker's unemployment insurance trust fund legislation (H 5206), making no changes to the proposal, according to co-chair Sen. Patricia Jehlen's office. The bill is now before the House Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets Committee.

If it does not advance again and clear both branches by the end of the day, Baker and lawmakers will need to restart the process in the 2021-2022 session that begins Wednesday. Without action, the average payments that businesses make to fund the unemployment system will rise nearly 60 percent as a result of the massive surge in joblessness during the pandemic.

Bills are due at the end of the first quarter, and Baker suggested a rate schedule freeze that would keep the hikes to only about 17 percent. Baker's legislation also proposes bonding to pay down the $2.2 billion in federal loans, which have started accruing interest, that kept the unemployment trust fund afloat and calls for a still-unspecified surcharge on employers to help repay the federal interest.