March 28, 2012

(Denver) – Monday’s unilateral Republican declaration of a “budget agreement” proved premature a day later when the legislative Joint Budget Committee remained locked in a stalemate over a proposal to lay off state workers in the face of a $200 million state budget surplus.

A preliminary budget motion earlier this year, when the budget outlook was more negative, would have required an across-the-board 2 percent cut to state staffing. The process would save about $20 million but require hundreds of layoffs.

In February, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office warned that the move would “negatively affect the levels of service provided to Colorado’s citizens” and would eliminate the jobs of as many as 500 state employees, including:

·        10 state troopers

·        20 workers in state mental hospitals

·        15 care providers for the developmentally disabled

·        10 workers at drivers’ license offices

With revised estimates over the last week showing a healthier Colorado economy and an additional $200 million in the state budget, Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee want to repeal the payroll cut. Republicans on the six-member panel, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, are resisting.

“We have to balance the budget, but we don’t have do it in a way that further reduces state services and puts more people out of work,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the House Democratic leader.

“These guys don’t know when to let up,” Rep. Ferrandino (D-Denver) said of the GOP. “They’re talking about laying off state troopers, prison guards and hospital workers. Our state workers are not the problem. Democrats will fight to hang on to state employees who protect our health and safety.”

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