Hickenlooper, Owens team up to promote Referendum S

DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper once parachuted out of an airplane to promote a Colorado ballot question.

Hickenlooper’s campaign this year for Referendum S — his proposed changes to the state personnel system — has been much less dramatic.

In 2005, while mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper filmed a commercial while skydiving to promote Referendums C and D, which let the state keep excess tax money instead of refunding it.

This week, he and former Gov. Bill Owens got together for a radio ad in which they claim to jump out of an airplane to get voters to back Ref S.

“Too bad we’re on radio so no one can see this,” Owens said in the ad, while the sound effects of an airplane propeller drone in the background.

Ref S makes a number of changes to the state personnel system, which is controlled by the state constitution.

It allows for more finalists to be interviewed for jobs; gives managers flexibility in picking which person to hire, instead of relying on standardized tests; and allows more rights for junior employees when the state does layoffs.

The proposed change also allows hiring preferences for military veterans and lets the state hire out-of-state residents for jobs near the border.

The referendum would give the governor more power over the personnel system by allowing him to exempt senior employees and by shortening the terms of members of the State Personnel Board.

“Amendment S also allows state government to run more like a business without any cost to taxpayers,” Hickenlooper said in the ad.

After staying quiet all campaign, the radio ad marks the first big push for Ref S. Hickenlooper also made a pitch for the referendum when he introduced President Barack Obama at a Wednesday rally in Denver.

The Yes on S campaign has raised $222,000, mostly from businesses and business groups. Davita, a renal medicine company that moved its headquarters to Denver this year, pitched in $100,000. ConocoPhillips gave $50,000, and Colorado Concern — a business group — provided $25,000.

Two opposition campaigns have registered with the secretary of state, but they have raised just $550 between them.