Early Bird Special: State workers will get unpaid furlough day Sept. 8

Here are some of the day’s news items that caught our attention:

Colorado government will grind to a virtual halt the day after Labor Day, according to news released Tuesday by Gov. Bill Ritter’s office, the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover reports. Sept. 8 will be the first of four planned furlough days designed to ease a mounting budget crisis facing the state. Previously, the governor’s office hadn’t said whether executive branch employees would scatter their furlough days or take them on the same day. Public safety workers, including state troopers, won’t face furloughs but might see pay cuts, the AP’s Colleen Slevin reports. State agencies familiar to the public — drivers license bureaus, for instance — will be closed. The state hasn’t said when additional furlough days might be scheduled.

State workers could face up to two weeks worth of furloughs, Ritter said on his monthly appearance with KOA 850 AM radio talk show host Mike Rosen, Denver Post reporter Tim Hoover notes at Politics West. In the face of a projected $384 million shortfall for the fiscal year just started, why aren’t state employees facing pay cuts, Rosen asked the governor. “A furlough day is a pay cut,” Ritter replied, noting that the four planned furlough days amount to nearly a week’s pay. “It could become two weeks’ pay or certainly something more than four days,” Ritter told the talk show host.

That $384 million shortfall in the Colorado budget could be wishful thinking, the Gazette’s Dean Toda reports. Ritter’s budget director, Todd Saliman, told state agencies to find $437 million to slice from this year’s budget in a memo released Tuesday. The memo specified cuts of $145 million at the Department of Health Care Policy, $90 million at Human Services and $69 million for higher ed. The state agency responsible for unemployment benefits won’t have to make cuts this year. Neither will CDOT or the state agency that funds K-12 education, but the schools department could be facing $200 million in cuts next year.

• Why all the red ink? Colorado and other Western states had 43 percent fewer job openings at the end of May compared with a year ago, the Denver Business Journal’s Mark Harden reports. That’s according to a U.S. Department of Labor report posted Tuesday. Last year, there were 996,000 jobs available on the last day of May in the 13 Western states, but this year there were only 567,000. Read the entire monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report here (PDF). Nationwide, the construction industry had the smallest percentage of jobs open.

• Turning our attention to an industry that hasn’t recently been known for a high percentage of job openings, the Early Bird Special notes The Colorado Independent is hiring two reporter-bloggers.

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