Ritter’s State Union Proposal Deserves Scrutiny

The fact that Gov. Bill Ritter and his Democrat cohort wants to impose mandatory collective bargaining on Colorado state employees has been the Capitol’s worst-kept secret for 2006. Today, the Rocky Mountain News quotes a leading Democrat legislator as confirming the rumors:

Senate President Joan Fitz- Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, confirmed she has heard Ritter’s office may be working on a state government reform package that could include collective bargaining for state employees. And she spoke positively of the possibility.

“Under the Owens years, the state employees did not fare well and they lost a lot of their benefits,” she said.

Ritter declined to talk specifics on a possible initiative.

“We’re working on how to best partner with state employees to deliver services faster, smarter and more effectively,” said his spokesman, Evan Dreyer.

You have to love how Democrats talk out of both sides of their mouth. Support mandatory collective bargaining on one hand, but give lip service to more efficient government on the other. Sorry, boys – you can’t have it both ways.

When it comes to public-sector union law, the devil is in the details. Here are some questions Coloradans will want to ask their governor and legislature about this matter of anyone concerned about the cost and effectiveness of state government:

1. Will your proposal give individual state employees the choice of who represents them?

2. Will state employees have equal opportunity to opt in and to opt out of a union or employee association?

3. Will state government give monopoly bargaining status to one private organization over all others?

4. Will negotiations between state government and a labor union be subject to costly binding arbitration?

5. Will the state be allowed to pay its employees under a merit system?

6. Will any legally-binding negotiations between public officials and private union officials over the use of public tax dollars be open to public attendance, or at least public review of official proceedings?

7. How do state employee salaries, benefits, and pensions compare to similar jobs in the private sector?

These are just a few of the questions that should be of interest to both taxpayers and state employees, questions we should have answered clearly and honestly before such a major change in Colorado state policy is enacted.

We don’t need more oversimplified and distorted rhetoric from Democrat leaders. We need to know the facts first – how this will affect the rights of employees, how this will affect the state budget. What are union leaders telling Democrat lawmakers behind closed doors?

Before Ritter and the Democrats foist their campaign promises to labor organizations on the state of Colorado, their proposal should be open to the greatest scrutiny. Because I agree with Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany: it sure sounds like a “budget-buster.”

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