Commissioners criticize pro-union Senate bill – The Fort Morgan Times

A bill from Democratic leaders in both houses of the Colorado legislature would serve unions but undermine voters, taxpayers and county governance, several eastern Colorado county commissioners have said.

Senate Bill 22-230, Senate Speaker Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and House Majority Representative Daneya Esgar, D- Pueblo, would expand collective bargaining rights for county employees.

“This is a vote of no confidence for any commissioner in Colorado,” said Morgan County Commissioner Jon Becker, who previously served as the state’s representative for northeast Colorado. “Our residents had no say in who made this decision, but they will pay for it.”

The bill was supported along a party line, 20-15, on Thursday at third reading in the Colorado Senate. If enacted in the final days of the legislative session, the legislation would allow nearly 40,000 public employees to unionize and have the potential to bargain collectively.

“The cost of implementing the framework for this bill in Logan County alone would be $400,000,” said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who is term-limited and will serve beginning in January as Logan County Commissioner. “Which department would the Legislature want County Commissioners to take this money from?” Personal services or roads? Logan County employees have seen an average increase of 5% per year over the past five years. Would the cost of setting this up come out of that pay line? »

While the bill’s budget impact could be quite small for the state — it’s expected to cost $419,716 in the first fiscal year and rise to $592,079 in the second year — Republican Party Chairman Kristi Burton Brown, projects a much bigger impact than the budget note. in the bill indicates. She predicts it would cost the 61 included counties a combined $400 million.

“It would take that money out of employee paychecks, away from emergency services and into Democrats’ campaign coffers,” Burton Brown said in a statement.

She noted a 2021 Colorado Sun report that the AFL-CIO would withhold campaign donations from Democrats until the end of the legislative session and may withhold donations entirely until they are treated as donations. genuine partners.

“[Gov.] Jared Polis and Colorado Democrats are choosing to partner with unions at the cost of bankrupting counties in Colorado,” she said.

Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton, who will replace Sonnenberg in the Senate, agreed with Sonnenberg that the cost of the bill to his county would result in budget cuts.

“As our budget increases, we will have to reduce services, which means slower response times from our law enforcement and ambulance services,” Pelton said. “Taxpayers deserve better!”

Commissioners are limited in areas that can be cut, Becker said, agreeing with Pelton on where the cuts could ultimately be made.

“You cannot choose. You must have jail. We have to maintain the roads,” he said. “What will suffer are the assistants that we can put on the road, and we will reduce the workforce for planning and zoning. We will downsize as employees demand higher and higher wages.

The cost to Morgan County could exceed $500,000, Becker said, adding that as the county grows, fewer staff is unsatisfactory for taxpayers. In the Colorado Sun report, Jefferson County projected a cost of $17 million and El Paso County projected costs of about $25 million.

In southeast Colorado, Prowers County Commissioner Wendy Buxton-Andrade said the bill is a double whammy at a time when economic factors have already done damage.

“We’ve had declining property values ​​and with rural Colorado struggling to attract new business, this bill will devastate our county,” she said. “If only one department votes [for] collective bargaining, the effects on my little riding will be layoffs and service cuts, just to have a balanced budget.

Burton Brown highlighted his perceived political motivation for the bill, noting that House sponsor Esgar hails from a district that has historically received 30% of campaign donations from unions, and noting other lawmakers in swing districts that traditionally receive labor campaign donations.

A review of the final report and Fenberg’s last major contributor in 2020 revealed two listed contributors: $1,000 from Colorado WINS (Workers for Innovative New Solutions) and $1,000 from SEIU Local 105. Moreno’s list of supporting organizations ahead of his final Senate run included endorsements by the AFL-CIO, Colorado WINS, SEIU Local 105 and Pipefitters Local 208. Major contributor reports have yet to be filed for 2022, but Burton argues that many Democratic campaigns are similarly funded.

“They’d rather sell for union donations than make sure our families can have fire and ambulance services,” Burton Brown said. “They are sacrificing our security to try to buy their places. Voters should be angry at this cruel betrayal.

Becker added, “The Legislature decided to listen to a particular interest in relation to every voter in Colorado.”

In neighboring Weld County, Commissioner Scott James shared the sentiments of commissioners from neighboring Logan and Morgan counties. A commissioner’s role, he says, is to manage taxpayers’ money well for residents, which the bill undermines.

“This bill defies the will of local voters and takes away the ability of county commissioners to do the job our residents elected us to do,” James said. “The double burden of cutting county services while increasing county budgets is a ‘no-win’ scenario for residents under normal circumstances – but it’s an even crueler irony that this bill is being considered in these times of rising inflation and global uncertainty.”

Burton Brown calls the bill a “betrayal” of Coloradans, and Becker and Sonnenberg say the bill is an effort by Democrats to expand labor influence into areas where there is little.

“For Denver bureaucrats, telling people in rural Colorado that they know how to better manage our local communities is nothing new,” Sonnenberg said. “These same bureaucrats continue to ignore that our people and our local government workers live here and work here because they want to, and they will continue to negotiate appropriate wages and benefits without answering to an urban union boss. “

Becker added: “The worst thing about the bill is that people see that their local, clear voice no longer matters in any election. The legislator says “you voted, but we don’t like your vote”. “

Norman D. Briggs