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Legislative houses at odds over extending unemployment benefits

A plan that would extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks in Wisconsin could be in jeopardy after Republicans who run both houses of the legislature passed different versions this week.

A plan that would extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks in Wisconsin could be in jeopardy after Republicans who run both houses of the legislature passed different versions this week.

The version the Assembly passed last night would maintain a new one-week waiting perioid for unemployment benefits that was included in the recently signed state budget. The bill that passed the Senate got rid of the waiting period.

Both versions would tap roughly $90 million in federal money to extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. But unless both the Assembly and the Senate pass the same exact bill, that unemployment extension is effectively dead.

Milwaukee Democrat Christine Sinicki told Republicans they were demonstrating a blatant disregard for their unemployed constituents.

"I don't quite understand how you can possibly go back home to your districts and face these people--look these people in the eye -- and tell them I put myself before you once again," said Sinicki.

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Democrats tried to force Assembly Republicans to support the Senate's version of this plan that got rid of the waiting period. Republicans shot it down on a party-line vote.

Markesan Republican Joan Ballweg said keeping the waiting period would save Wisconsin's unemployment fund up to $56 million a year. She said it was unfortunate that Senators voted the way they did.

"It would have been nice and clean and easy. We would have been done by now and moving on with our break," Ballweg said. "But unfortunately we've gotta get this right."

The Senate could come back at any moment and agree to the Assembly's version of this bill with the one-week waiting period for benefits intact. But at least as of last night, there was nothing scheduled. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said they were discussing it and looking at the timing.

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