February 2011

AP Reports 25,000 People Protesting WI Governor’s Anti-Union Legislation

According to recent AP report, 25,000 people are at the Wisconsin state capitol protesting anti-union legislation. They’re opposing a bill that would strip public employees of their
collective bargaining rights. A group of Democratic Senators have left the capitol in an effort to block the bill.

Read the full article at The Denver Post website: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_17411597

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Colorado WINS: State Workers Respond to Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 15, 2011

The
following is a statement in response to Governor Hickenlooper’s proposed fiscal
year 2011-12 budget from Robert Gibson, executive director of Colorado WINS.

Colorado
faces tough times and many Coloradans are hurting. Over the past three years
state workers have absorbed cuts to help balance our budget – furlough days,
pay cuts and cuts to benefits. Governor Hickenlooper’s budget proposal includes
a 4.5% pay cut to state workers at a time when too many of these workers are
already struggling to pay bills and rent. Some are even being forced to claim
bankruptcy, use food banks to feed their families, and work second jobs to
scrape out an existence.

Alex
Acosta has worked for the state for twelve years; the last six as a lead
custodian at CU Boulder and in that time he hasn’t received a raise. He is
married with four children. His wife works nights at a local hospital to save
on child care costs. His youngest child, just three months old was born with a
bone out of place which has meant frequent visits to the hospital. Alex can’t
afford the $40 co-pay for these visits, so he has to put them on his credit card.
Money is so tight that he now visits the local food bank regularly in order to
feed his family.

Unfortunately,
Alex’s story isn’t unique among state workers. The 4.5% pay cut for state
workers that Governor Hickenlooper proposes will have devastating impacts on
many of these workers and their families.

Cuts
and freezes to state services, like health services, corrections and state
parks, over the past few years have also taken their toll. Significant staffing
shortages at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo have led to unsafe
working conditions and three patient deaths in the last year.

Governor
Hickenlooper’s budget proposal highlights the choice that Coloradans and our
elected leaders must make. Do we want to live in a state where our children and
families have access to quality education, health care, roads and public safety
or in a state where only the most fortunate have access to these services and
opportunities?

We
oppose these proposed cuts as they will further hurt our ability to provide
essential state services to Coloradans. We oppose these proposed budget cuts
because too many state workers and their families, like the Acostas, are
already struggling just to make ends meet.

 

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Colorado
Workers for Innovations and New Solutions (WINS) represents more than 31,000
state employees who work
to ensure our quality of life in communities across the state.

 

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New Pew Poll: Two-Thirds Of Americans Want Lawmakers To Cut Programs And Increase Revenue To Deal With Budget Problems

A new poll from the Pew Research Center on People and the Press found that the public wants states to deal with budget challenges through a combination of spending cuts and increased state taxes. 

“About two-thirds (68%) say their state lawmakers should do a
combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes. Far fewer
(19%) think that focusing mostly on cutting major programs is the best
way to deal with the budget in their state.”

What’s particularly interesting is that this approach shows support across party lines. The poll found that 60% of Republicans and 65% of Independents supported the combination approach of spending cuts and tax increases.

Link to the poll [here].

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Denver Post: Mental Health Services in a Fragile State in Colorado

See the complete Denver Post story about the state of Colorado’s health services [here].

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Fox News: States, Unions Wrestle Over Pensions

Fox News reports on pensions, but they get it wrong reporting that pensions will cause budget disasters – see why here.

“I think what you were hearing from President McEntee was a very
legitimate concern that the problems that public employee pensions are
facing because of the economic downturn are really being exploited by
some politicians who want to use this as an opportunity to attack
working families in this country,” Scott Wasserman, political director of Colorado WINS, which represents public employees, told Fox News.

Lawmakers around the country are looking at new ways to prevent budget
disasters by changing the rules for overburdened state employee pension
funds. But they are meeting stiff resistance from public employee
unions. 

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ThinkProgress: How The US Chamber Plotted To Smear Unions

Last week,ThinkProgress uncovered a campaign by a lobbying firm
representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to to smear unions and other
political opponents.

“The report detailed how Hunton & Williams, a lobbying firm hired by
the Chamber, solicited “private security” companies to investigate the
Chamber’s political opponents, including…SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.
Their tactics included planting false documents, creating fake personas, and targeting opponents’ families and children. Their tactics included planting false documents, creating fake personas, and targeting opponents’ families and children.

To see ThinkProgress’ full coverage go to: http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/11/chamberleaks-primer/

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CBPP Analysis Finds Claims That Pension, Retirement Funds Will Tank, Economies Exaggerated, Misleading

A new analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that recent reports which claim that state and local governments risk immediate economic ruin unless drastic actions is taken are exaggerated and misleading. 

“… recent articles regarding the fiscal situation of states and localities have lumped together their current fiscal problems, stemming largely from the recession, with longer-term issues relating to debt, pension obligations, and retiree health costs, to create the mistaken impression that drastic and immediate measures are needed to avoid an imminent fiscal meltdown.”

The analysis finds that most state deficits are caused by the weak economy and that while state revenues have stabilized they still remain well below pre-recession levels. As revenues dropped, the need for public services increased, stressing state services. 

The CBPP report also finds that for most states “… a modest increase in funding and/or changes to pension eligibility and benefits should be sufficient to remedy underfunding… states and localities have the next 30 years in which to remedy any pension shortfalls; they generally should avoid increasing pension contributions as long as the economy remains weak and they are struggling to provide basic services.” 

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Huffington Post: How Politics Impact Income Inequality

Be sure to read Nathan Kelly’s new blog about how politics – and other factors like bargaining rights impact the income gap between the rick and poor.  His post is particularly timely as new data shows that the income gap between the rich and others is at it’s worst since the early 1900s. Click [here] to read Kelly’s opinion.

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New EPI Report Finds That Public Employees Earn Less Than Private Sector Counterparts

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) finds that Michigan state employees are not over paid, despite claims to the contrary. In fact, the study found that state workers earn less than their private sector counterparts.

On an annual basis, full-time state and local employee government employees in    Michigan are undercompensated by approximately 5.3% compared with similar private sector workers.

Read the complete report [here] at EPI’s website.

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Guardian UK: Income Inequality, US Worse Than Egypt

Read Michael Tomasky’s blog on the Guardian’s website about income inequality in the US and Egypt. The results are a little shocking. Turns out that the US is more unequal today than anytime since the 1920s. Check out Michael’s post [here].

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