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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A proposal to eliminate North Carolina's large unemployment benefit debt would require businesses to pay higher taxes and reduce the maximum payments that future jobless workers could receive.

The proposal released Wednesday in a General Assembly study committee is the result of negotiations between legislative leaders, business groups and others.

The plan would eliminate by 2015 the $2.4 billion the state owes the federal government because business tax contributions have not kept up with jobless claims. Without the proposed changes, it would take three or four years longer.

The maximum weekly benefit for workers would fall from $525 a week to $350. The maximum number of benefit weeks would drop from 26 weeks to 20. The proposal would raise slightly the minimum and maximum tax rates businesses must pay.

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