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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law changes to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system that supporters say will put the plan on firmer footing.

Critics say the changes will devastate the jobless with decreased benefits or none at all.

The Republican governor signed the bill Tuesday morning in his office as several legislators watched. The media was not invited to the signing.

The measure would repay more quickly $2.5 billion owed the federal government for jobless benefits by cutting maximum weekly jobless payments by one-third and raising business taxes. Federal emergency jobless benefits also will stop July 1, when the bill takes effect.

McCrory says the bill will protect small businesses from continued over-taxation and preserve the unemployment safety net.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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