A surprising vote in favor of equal pay for equal work

If you were told one of the state Senate’s most conservative members voted in favor of a resolution on equal pay for women, would you believe it?

It’s true. This morning, Republican Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton was one of 29 senators to support the annual equal pay for equal work resolution. But he said today he’s always supported the concept, just not the theatrics that sometimes go with it.

Neville is no bleeding-heart liberal. Or even close. He perennially carries legislation to repeal gun control measures, sponsors anti-abortion legislation, parents’ rights bills (that have turned into debates about immunizations) and, most recently, is a co-sponsor on a proposed new law that Democratic lawmakers view as anti-Muslim. During his 2016 bid for the GOP nod for U.S. Senate, Neville entered donors into a contest for an AR-15 assault rifle.

Neville wasn’t alone today as a conservative voting in favor of today’s resolution, which would encourage governmental agencies, nonprofit and labor organizations and businesses to implement equal pay policies for its women and minority employees.

The measure also counted the support of Republican Sens. Owen Hill and Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs and President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. Senate GOP President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City favored it, as did all 17 Democrats in the Senate. The final vote was 29 to 6.

The resolution, which is more of a statement of principle rather than a new law, was not without its detractors, however.

“I’m not going to be a knee-jerk ‘yes’ on this because it’s a popular notion,” said GOP Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud. “There are considerations that play a role in how people are paid. To say there should be equality ignores other factors. The way this [resolution] has been constructed through the years has been a divisive process. I wish it were more focused on reality than the exaggerations I see.”

Those “exaggerations,” in Lundberg’s view, came from Democrats, including Sen. Rhonda Fields of Aurora, who pointed out that white women will have to work from January 2016 until April 2017 just to catch up to what men made in all of 2016 alone — and that minority women will have to work until August 2017 to close that gap. The resolution points to data from the Colorado Woman’s Foundation that said in 2015, women earned about 80 cents on the dollar compared to male counterparts.

Neville had been a “no” vote on the resolution in 2016 and 2015. But he did vote in favor of it in 2012, when it included an amendment to scold the Obama White House for not paying its women employees at the same rate as its men.

“The idea of equal pay for equal work, I believe in,” Neville told The Colorado Independent today. “The grandstanding [by Democrats] doesn’t help … it takes away from the message.”

The 2017 resolution passed unanimously in the House last week.

Photo credit: Michael Panse, via Flickr: Creative Commons

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.