By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado lawmakers this week are considering a package of bills that would cut 393 full time state employees as part of an effort to save the state nearly $48 million this fiscal year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee Monday passed 10 bills that would make across-the-board cuts for all state departments. The cuts include eliminating full time jobs for select state departments.
Some state departments would be hit harder than others. The Judicial Branch, for instance, would have 200 full time jobs cut, while several departments — like Law, and Labor and Employment — would have several full time jobs added. Overall, the personnel reduction would represent .7 percent of all state workers.
Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said he went into Monday’s Appropriations Committee hearing assuming he would support all of the bills because they supposedly called for across-the-board cuts. However, he ended up opposing several of the bills because he said they rely on cash transfer “gimmicks” to fill the budget gaps.
“I’m not going to be a party to any gimmick,” he said.
Colorado Republicans have been calling for across-the-board cuts for the entire state government. A bill being proposed Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, would require Gov. Bill Ritter to reduce state payroll spending by .24 percent this year and 4.39 percent next fiscal year.
But Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, Monday said that Penry’s bill is nothing more than a political ploy. Even though Republicans knew about the dire budget shortfall since June, Senate Republicans didn’t use any of the 70 bills they were allowed to introduce to address the budget, Shaffer said. He added that it wasn’t until the week before Democrats introduced part of their budget balancing plan that Penry asked him if he could introduce a late bill that would detail the Republican budget balancing plan.
“You look at it and you understand how politically motivated that proposal was, it had nothing to do with the substance,” Shaffer said. “It gets headlines and it makes it into articles, but at the end of the day that proposal is a political proposal, not a good faith proposal for how to actually address some of the shortcomings we have.”
However, Penry has said that his plan would have made it unnecessary for the Legislature to pass nine bills earlier this month that will suspend or eliminate tax credits and exemptions for a variety of Colorado industries, from bull semen to soda. The GOP said the bills, which have been sent to Ritter for his signature, will hurt the Colorado business community.
“This one’s an economic no-brainer,” Penry said of his budget balancing plan earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, said that such a massive across-the-board cut would have a big impact on the private sector because the state contracts out many jobs to private groups.
“My point is that it isn’t so simple to say reduce government spending and lay off people, because it’s intertwined with the private sector,” she said.
The entire Colorado Senate is expected next week to hear the package of bills that the Appropriations Committee passed Monday. The House passed the set of bills last week.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters