Printed letters, Oct. 23, 2011

Benefits for state workers feature many variations

I am a computer tech at Colorado Mesa University. The work I do supports our local university and ensures that our economy is prepared for the future. All too often, politicians try to score political points by attacking public employees. This is why I read with concern The Daily Sentinel articles about state workers recently.

First of all, politicians need to know that not all state workers are alike. I am a classified state worker, part of only a small subset of the overall state workforce. The personnel system I am under is different than that of managers or professors, and there are widely varying personnel systems among different employers across the state. There is as much variation among public sector workers as there are private sector workers.

Politicians should know that our benefits are already subject to a hard cap based on years of service, something The Daily Sentinel article didn’t mention until the last paragraph. The Sentinel article, and the politicians, also confuse accruing sick leave with getting paid for sick leave. You accrue sick leave so that you have it in case of catastrophic illness, like cancer. But you don’t get paid benefits for accrued sick leave — you get benefits for unused leave under a very strict cap, after years of work and a series of other reductions and caps.

The Sentinel’s figure on how much the state may owe is also off base. It presumes all state workers are classified employees, which they aren’t, and it presumes all state workers get paid for the maximum amount of accrued sick leave, which they don’t. Big numbers can be deceiving, and the Sentinel made a lot of high-end assumptions that aren’t true of me or any other state classified employee.

Our group of classified state workers is offering to meet with Rep. Laura Bradford to talk about these issues and give her a fuller picture of who we are, what we do and how we support Grand Junction’s economy. In the spirit of working together, I hope she takes us up on it.


Grand Junction

Public gains nothing from the illegal marijuana trade

Being a lone medical voice in the medical marijuana issue, I was astonished and overwhelmed by the directness of a letter by a public information officer of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue. This letter was made public and available to media and totally supports the assumption that without medical marijuana retail clinics, the enforcement division has practically no authority to regulate caregivers to ensure authoritative monitoring.

“Only those businesses operating within areas that allow for commercial medical marijuana will be regulated and monitored by the MMED.” Medical marijuana access is guaranteed in the Colorado Constitution. That is a fact.

Other facts are: The American public is not going to become a degenerate society if people in pain and with debilitating disease processes have access to medical marijuana. The American public pays a high price for its War on Drugs through continued support of the Drug Enforcement Administration — an arm of the Department of Justice) with an annual budget of $2.2 to $2.6 billion. (DEA’s annual budget has increased by 3,891 percent from 1972 to 2009.)

The American public is paying a high price through the incarceration of non-violent offenders that grow, test, sell through highly regulated clinics, use and do not abuse their access to medical marijuana. These non-violent offenders become cheap labor for our growing private prison system. The American public reaps no benefits from illegal marijuana trade.

No serious studies have been made on the benefits of the marijuana chemical soup, only unsubstantiated statements of why it is bad, based on President Nixon’s 1972 opinion.

Palisade is the last bastion of empathy and common sense in this issue for the Western Slope’s less than 2.4 percent of the total Colorado licensed patients. They deserve Palisade’s continued faith to fulfill Colorado’s constitutional mandate.



Clean energy projects will create more jobs

The best way to create needed jobs is through clean energy.  Solar power is putting people to work and there are more than 5,500 solar companies employing more than a 100,000 Americans in regions throughout the country.

It is one of the few American industries that is actually growing. Investments in solar create seven times more jobs than investments in old energy such as natural gas and dirty energy such as coal.

Politicans can talk about creating jobs all they like, but the ones who are actually working to address the unemployment rate are the ones who are calling for more investments in clean energy like solar power.



Proposition 103 will do more harm than good

Proposition 103, the only statewide initiative on this year’s ballot, is a $3 billion tax increase that will do far more harm than good.

Proponents claim that the revenue generated from raising the business and personal income tax rates and the state sales tax rate will be used to offset cuts in education funding. However, as a statutory measure, there is no way of guaranteeing that the money will go to education; The reality is that the money raised from these rate increases — like the rest of the money from state sales and income tax — will go into the general fund, to be disbursed however the Legislature and the Joint Budget Committee decides.

Regardless of how it may be allocated, the fact remains that the money taken from the families and businesses of Mesa County will be on a one-way trip to Denver. Due in part to the bureaucratic mesh of state government, and in part to the funding formula in effect for the state’s school districts, little of the money would filter down to School District 51.

More important, however, is the economic damage that would be done to Colorado by these higher tax rates. A study by Portland State University economist Dr. Eric Fruits demonstrated that, if implemented, Proposition 103 will cost Colorado as many as 30,500 jobs by 2017. That’s an awful lot of wages not circulating — and tax returns not being filed — over the projected minimum 5 years that these rates would remain in effect.

Economic growth and higher employment are the only way to truly solve state-funding shortfalls — by slowing that growth, 103 will only make matters worse. I urge voters to do the right thing and vote “No” on Prop 103.


Grand Junction

Social Security COLA will help entire economy

As an old person — retired and on fixed income — I’m certainly not going to turn down the raise I’ll be receiving from Congress next year. The 3.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment is certainly welcome in these tough economic times.

Whenever a COLA occurs, I can’t help but be reminded of the good old days that I spent in the former wonderful world of private enterprise. That was before government decided to pass restrictive legislation and dictate to companies as to how to run their businesses and how to compensate their management and employees.

Anyway, in my former business experience, anything less that a 5 percent merit increase was a warning sign to an employee that his or her performance was barely acceptable. It was often intended to be a subtle indication that improvement would be expected — in a way, it was sort of an incentive.

As a good citizen, I want to make it clear that I do feel somehow awkward in accepting this increase. However, the data that was released with this announcement helped to ease my mind. According to Moody’s Analytic chief economist, Mark Zandi, the overall effect “would give a boost to consumer spending next year amounting to about $25 billion.”

According to the U.S. National Debt Clock, our nation’s debt now stands at $14.892 trillion (rounded off to the nearest billion), so the $25 bilion represents less than two tenths of one percent added to the burden placed upon our children and grandchildren by the wizards in Washington.

Doesn’t that make us feel good all over?




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