TAXPAYERS IMPRISONED: State Prison Guard Overtime Explodes by $9 Million

The next time our government workers come asking for a pay increase, consider this under-reported consequence of Democrat-sponsored legislation in 2013.  Tacked on to a bill to re-purpose the shuttered Ft. Lyon Correctional Facility, was an accounting change to re-calculate the manner in which overtime pay was determined for state prison guards.

moneyCash_small11 TAXPAYERS IMPRISONED: State Prison Guard Overtime Explodes by $9 Million

The result of this paperwork shuffle: the amount of overtime pay that accrued to our public servants in the Department of Corrections exploded from an average of $213,438 to $960,000 – per month.  This is an increase in overtime for correctional officers (this excludes parole officers) of approximately $9 million per year. This is paydirt for these unionized workers, represented by Colorado WINS, a union that’s already asking to double the proposed pay increase for Colorado State government workers as reported last month.

The Denver Post is now reporting that the Joint Budget Committee and the Department of Corrections “drastically underestimated the impact the scheduling provisions in Senate Bill 210 would have on overtime costs,” and that on Monday the Joint Budget Committee is scheduled to discuss this problem.

Colorado taxpayers pay the sweat of their brow to fund our state government, and quite frankly, are often too busy with everyday life to notice an “inside baseball” accounting change like this. This type of absolute betrayal, siphoning an additional $9 million out of the pockets of Colorado workers into the pockets of prison guards simply because of an accounting change, should erode the trust that the people have in Democrat lawmakers and our governor.

This issue also highlights the bad habit of combining unrelated issues into a single bill, usually a legislative gimmick to force an unpopular measure into the rulebooks by combining it with a more palatable proposal.  If the Democrats wanted to pad the salaries of the corrections officers, just be honest about it.  It could have been presented it as a standalone bill and determined whether it could pass on its own merits.  There is no reason to couple the corrections officer overtime pay changes with the bill to re-purpose the Ft. Lyon facility into a human services treatment center.

Back in May, Republican Sen. Kent Lambert told The Denver Post that “amending the bill to include the [Fort Lyon] homeless plan lacked ‘legislative integrity.’”  Indeed.