State employee raise MUST be a priority for 2017 legislative session

From Executive Director Tim Markham

Dear members,

Today, I have both good and bad news to bring you.

First, the good. On Monday, I met with the Governor’s staff to deliver 1400 signatures and set our demands. I asked that the Governor include the following in his Nov. 1 budget proposal:

  • a 6% raise for all classified state employees
  • additional funding for occupational groups disproportionately behind market (as outlined in DPA’s report)
  • a $15/hour minimum wage for all state employees

The meeting went well, with the Governor’s staff receptive and open to discussion about pay issues in the state workforce. I also emphasized the importance of matching pay increases with a firm commitment to Partnership, so that front line employee voices can be heard by facility decision makers.

6%-postcard-FBWe’ll have to wait to see what the Governor includes in his proposal. But the only way to make sure anything from the proposal passes is to have your local legislators on our side.

Pledge to vote for champions of state employees and to return your ballot early.

During the meeting, we also talked about the critical staffing shortages at the state’s 24/7 facilities, the morale problems developing across departments due to low pay, and the ongoing staffing and safety concerns in DHS.

I felt confident we had been heard by the Governor’s office and the signatures I delivered made an impact.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday I heard the bad news: the budget predictions by the state’s leading economists are gloomy. 

In fact, it looks like the State may be short nearly $330 million this fiscal year alone, which only started on July 1. That means the legislature will have to take action in 2017 to re-balance this year’s budget. And while estimates for the next fiscal year are higher, they are not enough to maintain the current level of spending.

This means that, yet again, we are fighting an uphill battle for raises. But it does NOT mean we’re ready to throw our hands up in the air and give up.

In the past few years, we have highlighted several solutions to ease our state’s budget woes:

  • Fixing the glitch in the Hospital Provider Fee to free up room in the budget
  • Assessing fees on large employers who pay low wages to workers, who in turn must rely on public assistance programs to their meet basic needs
  • Revising TABOR restrictions and mandatory payouts so the State can invest any budgetary surplus into quality public services
  • Raising the minimum wage for workers in Colorado, so they have immediate spending power in local communities and grow our state’s economy (a recent University of Denver study shows that by passing Amendment 70 and raising the minimum hourly wage to $12 by 2020 will grow our economy by $400 million a year)

In order to enact any of these changes, thus freeing up money for state employee raises, we must elect legislators who will vote with us on our issues. 

pledge-to-vote-early-widgetColorado WINS endorsed 68 local candidates who have pledged to support state employees in their fight for a significant raise. Pledge to vote early for candidates who will champion state employee issues.

We will continue to push for a 6% raise for Colorado’s classified state employees. For too many years, state worker raises barely kept up with inflation. Last year, with no raises, state employees fell even further behind. We are clearly heading in the wrong direction.

A significant raise for state employees needs to be a priority this year for the Governor and the legislature. 

Low pay is causing staffing shortages, morale issues, high turnover and, most importantly, critical safety concerns at many of the State’s facilities. We must focus on recruiting and retaining high quality, experienced public servants who are committed to their work and the people they serve.

That commitment needs to be honored by paying a competitive salary and by listening to front line employee voices at work.

And that is my commitment to you: to fight on your behalf until you get the respect you deserve.

Tim Markham
Colorado WINS Executive Director

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