Democrats Fight to Protect State Jobs When There’s No Need to Cut Them
March 28, 2012
(Denver) – The legislative Joint Budget Committee locked down repeatedly this afternoon over a Republican proposal to lay off state workers when for the first time in years there’s additional money — $200 million – in the state budget.
With revised estimates over the last week showing a healthier Colorado economy and an increase in state revenues, Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee want to avoid an across-the-board 2 percent cut to state staffing. The cutback would require hundreds of layoffs, affecting vulnerable populations and critical services.
“We simply aren’t in a fiscal environment that necessitates these cuts,” Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) told the committee.
The six-member panel, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, is in a third day of stalemate over the state staffing issue. Today they deadlocked 3-3 on a variety of Democratic motions to undo the payroll cut.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office has warned that the payroll 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 state troopers, hospital employees and prison workers. The governor is a Democrat, but the other three statewide elected officials — Attorney General John Suthers, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, all Republicans — also oppose the 2 percent personal services cut.
Rep. Levy and her Democratic colleagues from the Senate, Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Mary Hodge (D-Brighton), acknowledged not only the challenges that lie ahead but the success of budget negotiations so far, which have produced agreement to restore the senior homestead property tax exemption and increase school funding by $57.2 million.
“I’m glad we were able to work with our Republican colleagues on the Joint Budget Committee to restore vital funding for schools and the senior homestead property tax exemption,” Sen. Steadman said. “I know we can continue to work together to protect jobs and services for Colorado’s most vulnerable.”