As Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers struggle to erase a looming $1.4-billion state deficit, another deficit nearly three times as large hangs over the head of Michigan employers.
They owe the federal government about $3.96 billion that the state borrowed to pay unemployment benefits during the worst economy since the Great Depression.
That's on top of the regular unemployment tax businesses and other employers must pay.
The growing cost is a reason the Republican-led Legislature approved a new law that extends unemployment benefits this year, but next year will reduce to 20 weeks the maximum the state will pay unemployment benefits — down from 26.
That means lower unemployment taxes for Michigan employers in the future.
Meanwhile, a supplemental federal program allows the unemployed to extend benefits for up to 99 weeks.
If there are going to be people permanently unemployed for 1 or 2 or more years, there needs to be a transition to general welfare programs, which require both participation in job training programs and job search efforts. Unemployment benefits are supposed to be temporary, not a lifestyle choice.