If your government is strapped for cash and taxpayers are struggling to hold onto their jobs, it's always a good idea to blow cash on senseless and politically stupid items like happiness surveys for government workers and posh Martha's Vineyard vacations. It sends a clear and convincing message to voters that you get it. Your priorities are in line with reality.

Tim Hoover of The Denver Post reports today that Governor Hickenlooper's administration is spending over $200,000 for a New York-based firm to find out if state employees are happy at work.

From Hoover's write up:

New York-based OrgVitality has a three-year contract with Colorado for $211,400 to conduct the survey, with an additional $38,500 for a survey to gauge satisfaction with the Department of Personnel and Administration. Department officials said the state took multiple bids for the survey work and is paying a rate comparable to those paid by corporations that have conducted similar surveys.  

Still, the spending comes at a time of record budget shortfalls that have resulted in deep cuts to education and other services. State employees have not received raises in three years.

Tim Hoover, a reporter we have scorned, deserves recognition for this first bit of tough but fair reporting that our new Governor has faced.

Perhaps a better sample to survey would have been unemployed Coloradans to see if they appreciate limited state resources being used to determine the happiness quotient of still-employed state workers.

In this economy, simply having a job is a great thing. 

Too bad Hick hasn't had the guts to repeal former Governor Bill Ritter's executive order unionizing state workers. They're unionized for God's sake…they must be happy.

Governor Hickenlooper, thus far, has proved to be one of the smartest politicians in the country, adept at understanding the mood of the electorate and appearing above the fray on contentious legislation. But this is a major PR mistake. 

This ain't Bhutan and Coloradans aren't really interested in dropping 200 large to determine the Gross National Happiness of professors and police officers. 

Mistakes like this could harm Hickenlooper in more tangible ways than just public perception.

Prior to this senseless spending no politician, Democrat or Republican, would have much credibility going after Hickenlooper on the budget. He earned a sterling reputation on spending in his first budget, having the guts to propose larger cuts than even the Republicans at the Capitol. But events like this will give his opponents ammunition to knock him down a notch.