Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Budget proposal nickel and dimes essential services

DENVER - Following a budget briefing for members of the Colorado Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, the union for state workers called on the state’s leaders to stop shortchanging essential services.

“For the past few years we’ve been shortchanging essential services and that has consequences – lower quality education for our children, long lines at DMV, crumbling roads, increased safety risks to our communities. Unfortunately this budget proposal is more of the same. It cuts education and continues to nickel and dime essential services,” said Robert Gibson, executive director of Colorado Workers for Innovation and New Solutions.

A combination of significant budget cuts and underfunding have resulted in the Department of Human Services running are so short on basic supplies that some facilities run out of food, soap and toothpaste for patients, face masks, latex gloves and laundry detergent.

“We’re already down to a skeleton budget and now the question is: do we keep starving services and shortchanging taxpayers or make tough choices about ending services like road maintenance, state parks and health care for our veterans,” continued Gibson.

In the Department of Corrections, budget cuts have led to chronic understaffing and violent criminals being housed in lower security facilities and as a result, increased assaults on officers, inmates and inmate deaths.

State employees have taken pay cuts, furlough days and cuts to benefits for the past few years - and cutting even more will further erode the quality of our essential services. Even before the recession Colorado under invested in state services and failed to pay out earned raises in six out of ten years.

Many state workers like Chris Vigil hold down two jobs just make ends meet. Chris is the head of housekeeping services at Fitzsimmons Nursing Home, where he’s worked for six years. But even with his two-full time jobs, Chris struggles to pay rising health care and living costs to support his family.

“It’s time to stop shortchanging education, roads and public safety. We look forward to working with the new governor and legislature in the upcoming months to craft a budget that reflects Coloradan values and invests in a legacy for our children,” said Gibson.