By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The union representing state workers defended itself last week against Republican accusations that surging union membership will cost taxpayers.
Colorado WINS issued a news release last week following an announcement by Gov. Bill Ritter to furlough state workers an additional four days in order to close an additional budget shortfall of $271 million.
The additional furlough days brings the number to eight.
Robert Gibson, president of Colorado WINS, suggested that lawmakers need to consider additional revenue streams, perhaps through eliminating tax breaks and incentives, rather than furloughing state workers as part of the solution.
“The real solutions to Colorado’s budget crisis lie in finding innovative ways to save in state government operations, and in expanding future revenue options for the state,” he said in a statement.
Republicans connected the suggestion to a 2007 executive order by Ritter authorizing state employees to choose a union to represent them in collective-bargaining discussions with the state. They say “surging union membership in the state’s payroll will cost the taxpayers big in the long run.”
“I would remind the ringleaders at Colorado WINS that people who work outside state government have been facing the threat of losing their jobs altogether and maybe their homes, too, in this recession,” said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. “Put another way, the vast majority of Colorado workers don’t have the option of raising taxes to save their jobs.”
Scott Wasserman, political director for Colorado WINS, called the remarks by Republicans nothing but “fear mongering.”
“That’s their strategy,” he said.
Wasserman said with the state facing a deficit of more than $2 billion since September 2008, it would be silly for officials not to consider its revenue stream.
“It’s no secret that the state’s going to have to cut almost a third of its budget next year,” he said. “So, from our perspective, if that doesn’t prompt an honest assessment of existing tax expenditures … then I don’t know what does.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters