By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A new report from the union representing Colorado state employees claims that state services and personnel have been stressed to the limit by Colorado’s budget crisis.
However, a Republican lawmaker blasted the union as being blind to the recession and massive state budget shortfall as they “continue to push their Chicago-style politics.”
“Colorado’s State Employee Workforce; Stressed to the Limit” claims that Colorado has the leanest workforce in the Rocky Mountain Region, drastically under invests in assets like education, highways, police protection and natural resources, and is disinvesting in its state workforce. Colorado WINS (Workers for Innovation and New Solutions), the bargaining group created in 2007 to represent state employees, believes the state as a result is heading down the wrong path.
“Our report verifies what state employees in the field have been saying for the better part of a year,” said a statement from Colorado WINS Executive Director Robert Gibson. “We have been cut to the bone, and not only are Colorado WINS members suffering, but so are the citizens of Colorado.”
But Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, offered a sharp rebuke Monday, calling the report politicized and unhelpful.
“We are in the midst of a recession and facing a massive state budget shortfall and the union is blind to it as they continue to push their Chicago-style politics,” he said in a statement. “As a former civil servant myself, I know that our state employees take pride in what they do for our state, and while union bosses are busy whining and issuing politicized reports, Colorado’s state employees are going above and beyond to serve their fellow Coloradans, and I thank them for that.”
Colorado is currently facing a two-year budget shortfall of $1.5 billion.
Meanwhile, the state is home to the fewest state employees per capita in the Rocky Mountain Region, and the state employee pay, adjusted for inflation, has been stagnant since 2002, according to Colorado WINS.
“Calling for mass layoffs and pay cuts may make for great sound bites but defies logic when our workforce is already stretched to the limit,” said David Pertz, secretary of Colorado WINS and correctional officer at Delta Correctional Facility. “We need balanced, rational solutions that look at all options.”
But McNulty remains unconvinced. He is using the union’s report as a chance to bash Gov. Bill Ritter for signing an executive order in 2006 that granted unions access to state government employees. The executive order resulted in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Colorado Association of Public Employees/Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of Teachers teaming up to form Colorado WINS.
“Colorado taxpayers are paying the bill for increased bureaucracy in the form of higher fees, taxes and car registration fees,” said a statement from McNulty. “We can now thank our governor for an impending union-taxpayer showdown that threatens to hurt state employees and put state services at risk.”
However, Lynea Hanson of Colorado WINS said the report was not an impetus for a “showdown,” as McNulty said, but just a year-long fact-finding study.
“It’s unfortunate that Republicans and McNulty have chosen to attack the union when we were just trying to put the facts out there,” she said.
For his part, Ritter spokesman George Merritt said the governor is making the tough decisions to lead Colorado through the worst economy since the Great Depression. Merritt said that budget balancing in a recession is always tense, but that Ritter is spreading the burden across the board in his balanced approach.
“We’re eliminating hundreds of jobs, imposing unpaid furloughs and proposing a 2.5 percent pay cut to help keep the budget balanced,” he said. “These are hard times and Gov. Ritter appreciates that employees are doing their part and making sacrifices.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters