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Hickenlooper to Steadman: Better a cut in take-home pay than no job at all

Posted by Michael Sandoval on February 16th, 2011
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In unveiling his 2011 state budget proposal at the Capitol on Tuesday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for an additional $570 million in cuts. He is also asking public employees to increase their contribution to their retirement plan, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), from 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

This drew immediate criticism from Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who defended state workers and the “sacrifice” they are making to balance the budget. Hickenlooper responded that, unlike public employees who may see a small percentage decrease in take-home salary (due to the transfer to paying directly into their retirement fund), private sector employees may not even have a job at all and would gladly accept such a tradeoff:

STEADMAN: “I don’t know that going two-percent deeper into their pockets is the right place to look for balancing our budget this year. And while I agree with you that it isn’t prudent to not have a healthy reserve and to not look at that reserve - the closest thing to a rainy day fund that we have - I don’t know that we can ask state employees to further sacrifice some of their salary so that we can have a healthy reserve going into next year. That’s a difficult tradeoff, and I don’t know what the final answer will be, but I foresee great difficulties there. And in several other pieces of what you brought to us, bills that have already been defeated this legislative session . . . So I’m very glad you’ve taken this step and engaged in this process, but I don’t know that there’s an easy way out of the mess we’re in, and I look forward to working with you.”

HICKENLOOPER: “Certainly, I’m acutely aware of the challenges that our workforce has faced…took a cut, we’re proposing another cut…there is no workforce that wants to face that, ever. I’ve been in the private sector, had dozens of restaurants we were in, buildings that we have renovated and built, and yet, there are people all over the state, and not a small number, that have no job. And they are . . . you go to talk to a number of architects, marketing specialists, journalists, media specialists, and ask whether they’d rather have their job back and take a 4.5 percent pay cut from what they had two years ago, or where they are now, and there is an almost limitless list that would much rather have that job, even at a diminished salary. That being said, this is a plan, and we look forward to trying to work with you to find appropriate balances.”

Steadman has no doubt heard from state employees like Caleb Cameron who say that any additional retirement payments are, in effect, pay cuts. “Just because I’m a state employee doesn’t mean I should be fixing the budget for everybody else,” Cameron told Fox 31′s Eli Stokols in January.

With a $1 billion-plus shortfall, however, cuts must be made to balance the budget. In Hickenlooper’s reply to Steadman, he argued that those cuts could very well include public employees who must face tradeoffs - tradeoffs that in some instances private sector workers don’t have the option of making.

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  • Post by Michael Sandoval on February 16th, 2011

2 Responses to “Hickenlooper to Steadman: Better a cut in take-home pay than no job at all”

  1. pay3ought says:

    Be happy you still have jobs, I know plenty of folks that will gladly step in and take your job if you’d like to quit.

    Just more proof that we need to cut the government to the bone…

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  2. [...] of Democratic legislators such as House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who questioned Hickenlooper’s budget priorities, after he proposed $375 million in cuts to [...]

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