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March 28, 2012 05:00 PM UTC

Celebrating The Loss of 500 Jobs?

  • by: Colorado Pols

Circling back with the Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel, who reported yesterday:

The homestead exemption allows people older than 65 who have lived in their homes for at least 10 years to get a discount on some of their property taxes. The Legislature has suspended the tax break the last three years, as the state grappled with the recession.

The tax break had been shaping up as one of the year’s biggest political fights. But legislators learned Monday afternoon that they are under budget and can afford to restore the benefit…

House Republicans demanded last summer that the tax break be restored, but Gov. John Hickenlooper did not include the tax break in his budget, and other Democrats wanted to restore cuts to schools and colleges first.

The two sides have been at an impasse all year, and the state budget is due to be introduced next week. But legislators got good news last week, when they learned an improving economy is bringing more cash into the state budget.

But it’s not all smiles around the table, despite a continually improving revenue picture for the state, which begins to give hope that the last few years of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual cuts to public education and other key priorities really could be ending. While Democratic negotiators on the Joint Budget Committee declare “victory” finding funds for the senior homestead exemption, meaning they’ve decided they don’t want to fight Republicans on the issue any more, Eli Stokols of FOX 31 has a worrisome story for lots of other Colorado families.

The revenue gains will be enough to restore a property tax exemption for all Colorado seniors and to ensure that per pupil spending on K-12 education doesn’t drop next year.

But a proposed cut to state agencies’ payrolls is still a part of the budget proposal, after the Joint Budget Committee on Monday split over whether or not to reverse it.

Three Democrats voted to restore the proposed cuts, but three Republicans on the committee voted to maintain them – and the partisan sniping escalated Tuesday afternoon as House Democrats blasted Republicans for giving themselves a premature pat on the back, taking issue with a GOP press release issued Monday celebrating a budget agreement…

Colorado WINS, the union representing state workers, estimates that keeping the 2 percent reduction in place will result in the loss of between 450 and 500 state workers, affecting those in higher education, Youth Correctional Institutions, Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, State Patrol troopers and DMV offices.

“These guys don’t know when to let up,” Ferrandino said of McNulty and his GOP caucus. “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.”

So we’re not “balancing the budget on senior citizens” anymore, we’re balancing it on the backs of teachers and firefighters and cops–state employees who have worked through this recession without the raise 41 out of 100 legislators recently got? We’re going to fully fund this property tax break the moment our fiscal heads are above water, but lay off 500 more state employees while we do it? The judgment underlying these choices seems fairly irresponsible in this context.

Maybe that’s why the hardest pushback against this state of affairs is coming from Gov. John Hickenlooper–who is clearly signaling through budget director Henry Sobanet that he does not view the proposal to fund this property tax break, while proceeding with decisions that would result in layoffs of hundreds more valuable state employees, to say nothing of trying to walk back years and hundreds of millions of dollars in other painful cuts, as a responsible outcome.

Democrats should, on both ideological and very practical political grounds, be happy to see that.


6 thoughts on “Celebrating The Loss of 500 Jobs?

  1. We’re gonna need those nurses after we follow Hick’s example and chug the frack fluid.

    So bravo for trying to save them, Gov. Hickenlooper. I mean it.

  2. 500 STATE employees will lost their jobs.

    Get out my violin.

    The tax break monies will flow to old farts who will spend them in the general economy and (wait for it) create jobs in the private and public sector.

    500+ jobs.

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