Colo. gov vetoes bill helping state union members |

Colo. gov vetoes bill helping state union members

Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER – Gov. Bill Ritter once again angered union workers by vetoing a bill Monday that would have eliminated Colorado’s pay-for-performance program.

In his veto message, the governor acknowledged that the state personnel system is broken, but he said it would cost too much to switch to a system based on annual rate increases.

Union reaction was swift, with the head of the state employee union saying that the governor failed taxpayers and working families in the veto.

“He failed to institute a good business practice to ensure that Coloradans get the best services possible, whether it’s safe bridges and roads or care for our veterans,” said Pattie Johnston, president of the Colorado WINS.

Ritter angered union leaders in 2007 when he vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for them to form closed shops, even though he had promised to support it. He said he objected to the process after the bill was rammed through the Legislature, even though he supported the concept.

He said Monday he will issue an executive order directing his Cabinet to develop a plan for addressing problems with pay progression for state employees.

Ritter said the plan will consider how to utilize merit, core competencies and other factors to design a new system of performance-based salary increases in a manner that is consistent with best practices in human resources management.

He added that the plan “must also be one that we as a state can afford.”

Ritter also vetoed a bill Monday that would have put strict limits on state employee use of state vehicles, saying it compromised safety, and another bill deregulating basic telephone services.

Earlier this year, Ritter angered teachers by signing legislation that imposes strict new performance requirements on members of the Colorado Education Association, which represents about 40,000 teachers statewide that could result in teachers getting fired.

Teachers have now turned their efforts to helping craft the details of the new law, which opponents said amounts to watering down the requirements and penalties for failure to perform.

Democrats were sharply divided over teacher tenure this year after eight of them crossed party lines to pass it, leaving other members of their caucus in tears. Democrats were also divided when they were forced by a Republican filibuster to kill an amendment that would have had the state deducting union dues from state employee union members.

Ritter said he understood union’s frustration, but that the state needs flexibility to balance the budget and state workers have to do their part.

“I fully acknowledge that state employees, along with employees in other sectors, have sacrificed during this current economic downturn. However, removing one of the options for meeting a budget shortfall will only serve to push the burden of balancing the state budget onto a narrower base, likely resulting in deeper cuts to education and safety-net services,” Ritter said.

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