Yesterday, the House rejected a plan to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut for two months and Republican members are demanding that the U.S. Senate return to negotiate an extension for the entire year.  Lawmakers are looking to renew a 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, plus jobless benefits averaging about $300 a week for the long-term unemployed. The impasse could mean a tax hike for 160 million American workers in January, while almost 2 million people could lose their unemployment benefits.

A new analysis shows only four states would suffer more than New Jersey.

According to the National Employment Law Project, roughly 85,900 New Jerseyans would lose their unemployment benefits in January if congress fails to reach some sort of compromise. California would be hardest hit followed by Florida, New York and Texas.

Last year, the state legislature took action to ensure that no Garden State resident would lose extended unemployment benefits, but that extension is set to expire on December 31, 2011. New Jersey has one of the largest populations of residents who would be affected by loss of benefits.

Garden State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty says, "We're talking about over 80,000 New Jersey jobless people who would not receive unemployment checks. That would be a disaster for their households, but also it trickles down into the economy. Those people won't have any money to go out and purchase things. That will hurt our local economy as well."

Moriarty blames Republicans in Washington. He says, "They seem to care more about millionaires and billionaires and corporate profits over the jobless people that are out there struggling at this time of year……….If we can be bailing out big business and bailing out banks that now have record profits, why aren't we taking care of the unemployed?"

Failure to reach a deal in Washington could also render pointless a bill co-sponsored by Moriarty that would allow New Jerseyans to continuing collecting unemployment benefits while receiving on-the-job training at Garden State companies.

In Washington last week, the House passed a full-year extension, but included many spending cuts opposed by Democrats. Republican members balked at the Senate measure, which drops changes to the unemployment insurance system that conservatives wanted along with cuts to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Yesterday, the President said, "The clock is ticking. Time is running out." He claimed House Republicans are trying to "wring concessions" from Democrats on issues that "have nothing to do with the payroll tax cut." Obama said lawmakers owe it to the American people "to come together and do the right thing."

Courtesy Associated Press