Please Speak Plainly, Gov. Ritter

Consider this post a plea for Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) to pick a side of his mouth to speak out of. Echoing today’s Rocky Mountain News editorial:

Gov. Bill Ritter continues to insist that state employees don’t “feel valued,” as he said on Mike Rosen’s KOA talk show last Thursday, and that a “partnership for the 21st century” is needed to “acknowledge the work of state employees, to take their input, to \[deliver] a better service to taxpayers.”

Who on earth could oppose any of those objectives? Why wouldn’t the public prefer an entrepreneurial state work force that’s constantly aiming to improve its performance?

And if these are the governor’s goals, why doesn’t he simply implement them?

The self-described “CEO of state government” could start by instructing department heads to move toward a more collaborative working arrangement with state employees – and if his current management team can’t do that, Ritter could find new leaders who will.

And yet e-mails, memos and other documents that have come to light in the past month suggest that the governor is interested in the idea of collective bargaining for state employees. That would require a change in state law.

The governor has not denied that collective bargaining might be a part of his legislative agenda. Instead, he’s tried to downplay the impact it would have on state budgets. This indicates that he understands how radioactive the topic can be.

Gov. Ritter apparently is trying to keep the labor leaders who funded his election happy, while not scaring the moderate and independent taxpayers who voted him into office. But the Rocky is exactly right: If the governor wants to implement “a partnership for the 21st century,” there is nothing stopping him as the CEO of state government from putting it into action.

Instead, while using rhetoric that would indicate improving the efficiency and productivity of state government, Ritter is working behind closed doors with union bosses to craft collective bargaining legislation for an already highly-paid state workforce. In fact, publicly, he will neither confirm nor deny whether his plan includes “collective bargaining.” Sorry, you can’t have it both ways, Bill.

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