Responding to concerns from business leaders, Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), and House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala) on January 21, 2010 pledged to forestall a scheduled increase in unemployment taxes.

Because of shortfalls in the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, unemployment taxes are scheduled to rise dramatically in April 2010. The tax rate automatically increases whenever the balance in the trust fund falls below four percent of state's taxable payroll. The trust fund has had a negative balance since August 2009, and the state has borrowed $839.5 million to cover the shortfall.

The automatic tax increases are dramatic. The minimum annual rate, which is charged to employers with the best record of keeping their employees, will rise to $100.30 per employee from the current $8.40 per employee level. The maximum rate, which is currently $378 per employee, will rise to $459.

The governor and the presiding officers of the Legislature issued a joint press release pledging to provide “relief” from the tax increase. House Speaker Cretul said, “Senate President Atwater and I asked our staffs last year to begin working on a way to provide relief to Florida businesses in the face of growing unemployment claims. Our goal is to pass legislation early in the upcoming session that will stabilize the costs of unemployment and help businesses to plan for the financial demands the jobless claims are placing upon them.”