Post: Our Jimmy Hoffa governor, Bill Ritter, the union bag man

What a pleasant surprise to find a strongly-worded editorial on the front page of today’s reliably center-left Denver Post, condemning Gov. Bill Ritter for his cowardly Friday order in benefit of a narrow interest group at the expense of Coloradans who elected him to office last year. I almost could have written it myself. Without further ado, here goes:

When Coloradans elected Bill Ritter as governor, they thought they were getting a modern-day version of Roy Romer, a pro-business Democrat. Instead, they got Jimmy Hoffa.

“Our Jimmy Hoffa governor, Bill Ritter” … It has a nice ring to it.

Ritter campaigned under the guise of a moderate “new Democrat” but now we know he’s simply a toady to labor bosses and the old vestiges of his party — a bag man for unions and special interests.

Hey, Lefties. The Post said it, not me. “Our Jimmy Hoffa governor, Bill Ritter, the union bag man.” Sounding even nicer …

The governor on Friday unveiled his plan to drive up the cost of doing business in Colorado by forcing collective bargaining on thousands of state employees. We’re concerned this may be the beginning of the end of Ritter as governor.

I wouldn’t have used the word concerned – how about hopeful?

By pandering to unions, and the ever-shrinking 7.7 percent of the electorate that belong to unions, he’s broken his “Colorado Promise” to voters. His promise to usher in a new era of collaborative government — where business and labor, Democrats and Republicans, would all be at the table — was nothing more than a sham.

Ritter the union bag man perpetrated a sham on you and me … or, more importantly in this case, the Post. Warnings on this blog and in many other places went unheeded. I’m very glad the Post has come to see this matter as we have.

It’s unconscionable for the governor of a state that’s limped through lean budget years to knowingly drive up the cost of government. And for what? Political payback to unions?

I’m sure it’s supposed to be a rhetorical question, but I’ll help it along with an emphatic Yes. Regardless of your point of view on TABOR and Referendum C, this is a unifying point.

He’s even doing an end-run on the legislature, controlled by his own party. Instead of introducing a bill in the legislature that could be debated and fine-tuned — the collaborative process he promised — Ritter junked what has worked for Colorado for decades with the flick of a pen. He didn’t even have the guts to stand before the public and announce his plan. Instead, he sent out a press release late Friday afternoon when he hoped no one was looking.

It’s government by fiat.

This fact was the first thing I noticed – not only what Ritter the union bag man did, but how he did it. Under the virtual cover of night. His media advisors clearly told him how to get this order up with as little attention as possible. “Our cowardly Jimmy Hoffa governor, Bill Ritter, the union bag man.” Hmmm … now we’re getting somewhere.

Ritter sailed into office with an unusual but strong coalition of business and labor backing his bid. But he has now corrupted that relationship with business, and the bulk of his agenda is at risk. He also has damaged his party, which enjoys power in Colorado partly because of that moderate face they painted for themselves in recent years.

The image of the governor’s agenda and party are hardly my concern. This blog has been one of many voices trying to tell Coloradans that the Democrats are more liberal than the face they present to voters. Perhaps we’ll start receiving more attention. In the meantime, see another Post article today detailing the rift that begins to grow. But more of the editorial:

Without business in his corner, we fear Ritter won’t be able to effectively shepherd a comprehensive health care solution through the statehouse. And any plans he may have for a new revenue stream for higher education are dangling by a thread, too.

If this cowardly order by Ritter the union bag man jeopardizes his attempt to impose government health care on Colorado, I’ll consider it an unintended beneficial side effect.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re concerned he’s lost whatever business support he had to reform Colorado’s budget process. And that could very well doom his governorship. Gov. Bill Owens was able to pass Referendum C, which freed up money for five years from the state’s tight revenue caps, because he had a strong coalition of business leaders helping to win support from GOP voters, who happen to be the largest block of Colorado voters. Ritter will be rudderless if he tries to convince voters to approve an extension of Referendum C.

Ditto. (I’m really, really resisting saying I told you so.)

Experts say collective bargaining can add as much as 30 percent to the cost of doing business. Tell us, how does that make sense for a state that can hardly pay its bills and plans to come to voters as soon as 2009 with its hand out?

I don’t know about the 30 percent figure per se, but there’s no doubt that union bargaining adds costs and makes government less efficient, which makes the whole sum of silly rhetoric used by Jimmy Hoffa – er, Ritter the union bag man – to justify this action entirely absurd.

Ritter’s two Democratic predecessors, Dick Lamm and Romer, were able to govern for 24 years, collectively, without introducing collective bargaining.

I agree with my friend Michael on this point:

The thing about Romer and Lamm, though, is that they had to operate with a Republican legislature. Ritter assumes he can get away with this because of the “unusual coalition” of a Democrat legislature and a Democrat press.

And, sadly, he’s probably right.

Unless Republicans can make this THE issue in the state, starting today, Ritter will probably be able to push this aside and next year’s campaign will be what it was always shaping up to be.

But if Republicans surprise all of us and make an effective campaign on this issue, we may see a very different campaign next Fall than any of us expects. Is Dick Wadhams up to it? Stay tuned. . .

Back to the Post editorial:

State employees are paid well, and treated well. In fact, by one estimate, they already earn 25 percent more than workers in surrounding states and their pay is 9 percent higher than the national average. We’re ninth best in the country in paying our state employees, but not long ago we were 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income. Strange priorities, indeed.

Of course, that 49th figure has been disputed as irrelevant numerous times here. But the point about how well state employees are paid and treated is spot on. Ritter the union bag man keeps saying this order is not about state employee salaries. But you’re a fool if you don’t see it as a prelude to binding arbitration and big pay raises on the backs of taxpayers like you and me. How else do you explain this perfect example of a solution in search of a problem?

Had Ritter thought employees were somehow getting a raw deal, he could have waved his magic wand and changed all that. He is the governor, after all. Instead, he’s decided to prop up unions.

Yes, as CEO of state government, Ritter the union bag man most certainly could fix any real or perceived problems. But obviously he’s much more interested in handing the reins of power to labor bosses, a narrow interest group, than wielding the authority duly invested in him by the state of Colorado.

Now, he runs the risk of becoming Colorado’s first one-term governor since Walter Johnson in 1950.

I only hope they’re right.

Coloradans bought the Colorado Promise, but may end up with a trail of broken promises.

The slogan of a government run by the Democratic Party.

A governor with such early promise has squandered his future in order to keep his backroom promises to a few union bosses. And Colorado is the loser.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And what will the Lefty blogs in Colorado do? Try to defend Ritter the union bag man? Distort the issue with rhetoric and spin? Launch personal attacks against the Post‘s editorial board? Try to point fingers at Republicans? Or just ignore the whole affair, and hope in vain for it to go away? Watch their responses. They will be very telling.

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