GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – A state lawmaker is considering introducing a bill that would eliminate paying state workers for unused leave and sick time, which could mean a savings of about $367 million.
State workers want the benefit to remain as it is, saying it’s one of the few they have left.
The Daily Sentinel reports the state has paid more than $58 million in unused leave and sick time to state workers since 2008.
Colorado WINS, the union that claims it represents 31,000 state workers, said Colorado employees have made several sacrifices that include unpaid furloughs, no pay raises in years and a greater contribution to the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association.
Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran says she’s looking into introducing a measure in January to eliminate the benefit. Other lawmakers support the move, including House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.
“When Coloradans see government workers with these types of benefits that they’re not getting in their job or ever likely to get in their job, that does cause a problem,” McNulty said. “From a fiscal standpoint, watching all of this money go out the door is very frustrating given the fact that we do have priorities that we need to fund on a state level like K-12 education and roads. So it is absolutely critical that we take a fresh look at the benefits government workers are receiving.”
Various state agencies and higher education institutions vary in the benefits they offer. More than 35,000 workers in the state personnel system can accrue up to 360 hours of sick time. Retiring workers and those who resign who are near retirement age can get paid for 25 percent of any unused time. Some workers also are allowed to convert some of their sick time to vacation time.
“I am grateful to have a job and feel for those who don’t, but I get real tired of hearing these kind of stories when it is expedient politically and it gets ignored any other time,” Canon City correctional worker Thomas Beneze said in an email exchange with the newspaper. Beneze said he’s also an alternative state delegate representing the Fremont County Republican Party.
“It sounds like class warfare and makes any public employee look like we are on the take and screwing the public,” Beneze said. “We become the bad guy in a system where we have no say and never will.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)