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Dear public employees: Be afraid

Published: Sun, November 14, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

It was a verbal shot heard round the state of Ohio: “Please leave the cynicism and political maneuvering at the door, because we need you on the bus. And if you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus. I’m not kidding.”

So said Republican Gov.-elect John Kasich two days after he had scored a stunning victory over Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who was seeking a second four-year term.

Kasich, a former congressman, state senator, Lehman Brothers executive and television talk show host on Fox News Channel, made the comments — and others of equal sharpness — to a gathering of Statehouse lobbyists. The governor-elect’s bottom line: You had better get on board with impending budget cuts.

But the warning could easily apply to public employees who either directly or indirectly feed from the state’s financial trough.

“Changes are coming,” Kasich said. “Some of it will be uncomfortable for people, but this is our chance to save this state. I don’t think there’s much time left. Our brand is starting to change now and we need to rebuild it, and we can.”

Chain saw massacre?

So, what are the changes? The details have not been made public, but given that the new Republican governor and the Republican controlled House and Senate next year will not raise taxes, it’s a safe bet that a chain saw will be taken to the next biennium state budget which is expected to have a deficit of $4 billion to $8 billion at current spending levels.

Public sector workers in Ohio beware. The days of wine and roses will soon be a memory.

Indeed, during the campaign, Kasich made it clear that the manpower reductions implemented by Strickland over the past four years were inadequate and that more are needed.

Strickland’s first biennium budget had the lowest growth in spending in 42 years. In response to the national recession, the governor slashed outlays by $1.5 billion.

The current budget reflects a reduction in government spending by nearly $2 billion, compared with actual spending in the previous budget. And that was before a $851 million hole.

In other words, the Democratic governor reduced the size of government to the level it was during the Reagan era.

From February 2007, at the beginning of the Strickland administration, to last September, the state’s workforce was decreased by 4,670 employees — 63,559 to 58,889.

But, during the campaign, Kasich argued that not enough had been done to reduce the size and cost of government — and the voters agreed.

So, now, the chain saw is being oiled and readied.

While Kasich has kept his budget cutting plans close to the vest, one long-time Republican political operative in Columbus offered this observation: Everything is on the table.

What does that mean? Here’s how he framed it: The days of college professors making $100,000, teaching one class a semester and spending the rest of their time in their offices or on sabbatical are over.

In other words, education funding — state colleges and universities and even kindergarten through high school — is going to take a hit. So are social service agencies, libraries and even programs for the poor.

There are no sacred cows.

Collective bargaining law

Kasich, who was strongly supported by business groups, had said during the campaign that he wanted to reexamine Ohio’s collective bargaining law, passed in 1983, that gives public employees the right to bargain, seek arbitration and to strike. Only safety forces are prohibited from striking.

There also is chatter in Columbus about looking at whether Ohio could become more competitive as a right-to-work state.

The Republicans have taken over state government and have marginalized the Democrats. Thus the agenda they’re pursuing is one that takes aim at what they see as the problem with government: too many overpaid employees.

And here’s a bet they can’t lose: If Kasich and the GOP-controlled General Assembly go after public employees’ pensions, they’ll have widespread support from Ohioans working in the private sector.

And, Kasich will be able to launch his presidential campaign — as an anti-big-government conservative.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years ago

Wow -- Betram didn't write about Jim Traficant!

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2Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 5 years ago

Author50, I think that surprises me more than anything else about this article.

No mention of Traficant, no mention of the Mafia or Lenny Strollo. There is nothing typical about this article!

I may have the cut this piece out and frame it, since obviously I have nothing else better to do this Sunday morning besides to go mass.

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3Silence_Dogood(1558 comments)posted 5 years ago


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4Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 5 years ago

Ohio is in the hole 8 BILLION bucks. It does not matter who is in office... cuts have to be made.

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5badeepster(123 comments)posted 5 years ago

So Bertie deScumbag didn't write about Jimbo--he wrote about the only other subject he talks about--Public Employees. Here's a scenario for you: thousands of public employees are laid off by Kasich, so these people have to cut personal spending, thus ending their subscriptions to the rag Vindy. This lack of business causes the Vindy to, in turn, lay off deScumbag. He seeks help from the welfare department to make ends meet, but the very people who would help him were, to his delight, also laid off. This causes deScumbag to get a job in the only place he could excel, selling cigs and lottery tickets at Habib's corner store. See you in the soup lines, Bertie!

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6ytown1(397 comments)posted 5 years ago

All I can say is Right to work state. This cannot happen soon enough.

When did the state and local government employees become so strong that they write their own pension rules and paychecks?

I am nowhere near being a tea party individual by any stretch of the imagination, but this whole issue is out of control from the top down. Federal , State and Local, Schools included.

Bust open the contracts and make necessary adjustments in pay and pension contributions, the taxpayer cannot afford to pay 100% of the contributions to the pensions, I do not feel we need to lay anyone off, we all are working for less and doing more with less employees everyday, for quite sometime, not just since this last recession started.

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7VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 5 years ago

The facts are very clear as well as alarming. 8 Billion Dollars is more than just salaries, but we citzen/taxpayers have really taken a beating the past two years and are in no mood to hear of concern over government workers losing their jobs or having their hours cut. Many of us have gone through that trauma already and have found a way to survive. Unfortunately, we are still watching friends and family suffer as they also go through life changing job issues.

This recession is NOT over, despite what you hear from our government. There are still over 400,000 new people seeking unemployment benefits EVERY week, and those numbers will continue as state and local governments begin cutting back to meet their new budgets. Now, I also want to see all those Federal jobs that pay over 100,000 each get slashed. Now is not the time to continue talking about change and giving speeches. Its been two years and all we hear are speeches. Now is the time to act. As the famous Nike swosh (slash?) slogan says - "Just Do It." Get it over with and let us move on.

Lets move on with permanent tax cuts and incentives for business growth that will help stabilize businesses who will be able to plan future growth and add employees, rather than fear what will come next. Our governments have become so big and demanding, that businesses cannot prosper and we find it difficult to find jobs.

Now that we have a reorganized House of Representatives, we have the ability to finally force some Changes we were promised, but unfortunately the Republican Party will be tasked and blamed with forcing these changes. If the changes go thru, possibly that was the real goal...blame the Republicans, again..so, we all lose, again!

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8Chief_Justice_Spartacus(26 comments)posted 5 years ago

IIf the Republicans take such action against Public Employees the reaction will be equally strong the next election cycle. Yes, I agree that some changes are needed but to go to the length that Kasich is trumpeting, IT WON’T HAPPEN. Kasich maybe independently wealth but others in the Republican Party aren’t so lucky. He would be cutting the perks his colleagues are enjoying. If the GOP is focus on the now they will miss their opportunity for the Super Bowl Ring. Other States will be closely watching OHIO. Maybe the voters will come out again when the soup line is just over run by folks who used to buy the Vindy.

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9walter_sobchak(2418 comments)posted 5 years ago

Why should govt employees be immune to the downturn in the economy and layoffs? These employees make good wages and get 100% premium payments into their pension plan paid by the taxpayer while the private sector has to self pay into IRA's and 401(k) plans that an employer may or may not contribute to. I hope Kasich takes a chainsaw, ax, machete or whatever else it takes to get this budget balanced.

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10ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 5 years ago

Two facts:
1. Cuts of course need to be made
2. Many of the complainers would love to have one of those professor positions.


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11Traveler(606 comments)posted 5 years ago

The NYT has a excellent interactive page on what you would cut or tax to fix the budget. Kind of neat to see what would have to be cut to get our spending under control.

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12truthurts(1 comment)posted 5 years ago

Ytown1 and Walter Sobchak your statements that the public can not afford to pay 100 % of public employees pension contributions is so false that it shows your lack of true information about the subject. The false information is being spread by business groups that are trying to make Ohio a right to work state. They take one or two extreme examples and try to make it seem like every public employee is milking the system. Most public employees retire with a pension of about 25k to 40 k after 25 to 33 years of service. Some have to pay between 600 to 900 a month for health insurance.

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13ytown1(397 comments)posted 5 years ago

That 25K to 40K comes to them after 25 to 33 years of never reducing your pay one dime, unlike the private sector IRA's and 401 K's that are built paycheck to paycheck with most employers barely contributing a small amount if any, mostly because small business cannot afford to pay into their own retirement funds let alone help out their employees.

Again unlike the public sector which just goes to the taxpayer and creates gloom and doom scenarios to scare the electorate into passing another levy to cover that next raise so their lives don't end up like most of the taxpayers that can barely afford the taxes that we are paying already.

The public unions and their com padres in office are bankrupting us all, just look at California?

A right to work state would do just fine, I believe Texas is a Right to work state and they seem to do just fine.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia on this matter:

A March 3, 2008 editorial in The Wall Street Journal compared Ohio to Texas and examined why "Texas is prospering while Ohio lags". According to the editorial, during the previous decade, while Ohio lost 10,400 jobs, Texas gained 1,615,000 new jobs. The article cites several reasons for the economic expansion in Texas, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the absence of a state income tax, and right-to-work laws.


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14badeepster(123 comments)posted 5 years ago

On my way to work this morning, I passed 4 places that had help wanted signs posted. If you're not working, it's because you don't want to work. Leave the public employees alone--nobody wanted those jobs when the steel mills were buzzing and people with no educations were making money hand over fist. Now everyone wants their scalp. I guess misery truly loves company.

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15Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 5 years ago

Where do some of you get your information. Not all Gov. workers have it made. ODRC has cut over 2400 people this year. JFS has cut hundreds of positions. Pay has gone down if you add in their furlough days and the increases in insurance and some haven't had a raise in 3+ years and they sure as heck won't get one on the next contract. They DO pay into their pensions They do pay for their insuance. Not all make big bucks.

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16Adams(14 comments)posted 5 years ago

I have no problem with anyone getting a pension. The issue is defined contributions as opposed to defined benefits. Social Security would be well funded if there weren’t so many people paying into their own government created pension funds. Mention social security changes and you would be treated like you are a person who wants to kick older people to the curb. Facts are simple, I pay all my life into social security my wife and children are older then I die before I can collect I have no asset in return for everything I paid in. Is that fair to my family for supporting the system? Many people have no assets and this would give them something to leave their families. At 65 I retire but my income is limited when I am on social security. If I make too much I’m penalized but yet elected officials and others retire with full pensions then go back to the job with a full pay. So is this fair to the common man that chooses not to work for the government? Not at all! Double standard created by the ruling class to separate themselves from the working class.

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17WhatRUAfraidOf(85 comments)posted 5 years ago

I sure as heck hope that Ohio does NOT become a right-to-work state. Hundreds of thousands of building tradespeople who have undergone years of apprenticeship training and who take pride in what they do would be significantly hurt economically if that happens.

Right-to-work doesn't just affect public employees, it affects a lot of other workers, too. In many right-to-work states, construction is done by people who can barely speak English working for half of minimum wage. The work is so shoddy that it falls apart as soon as it starts being used.

Don't forget that the money paid to trained, competent construction workers who earn prevailing wages goes back into the economy. It's too bad that I couldn't encourage my sons to go into the building trades like their father and his father, brother, and uncles before him. Nothing makes my husband prouder than showing me work he has done in a new building that looks like a work of art. Thank goodness he's near retirement age and hopefully won't have to worry about this for too much longer.

You idiots should start really looking at what you're asking for. You just might get it :-(.

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18northsideperson(366 comments)posted 5 years ago

If Kasich and company can actually cut enough to end the deficit, will he hurt enough people so much that they throw him out on his ear in four years? Or throw legislators out sooner?

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19mom2boys(11 comments)posted 5 years ago

So why not compromise? Vote out legislators not in favor of passing legislation to forbid "double dipping". It may not completely balance the budget, but it should sure silence those who tout it as an evil sin. This is not all that much dissimilar to the protests in France going on now, where younger workers are trying to get the government to force older workers into retirement so there will be more jobs. I agree, double dipping isn't fair, but I don't see why public employees should become the next whipping boy so the rich can get richer with their tax breaks and feed lines of BS that companies will start hiring in this economic crisis. I agree with bbadeepster, there are jobs out there. They may not be glamorous, and they may not be desireable, but man, suck it up and do what you gotta do. I know if I lost my job I wouldn't be sitting on my laurels whining about it on vindy.com, my butt would be out combing wherever to get re-employed. What is frightening is that the wealthy elite would have us believe that they're going to put every unemployed & underemployed person back to work if they get what they want from the government. Really? Really? The rich in this country became so on the backs of the less fortunate. First slaves on plantations, then reaping the benefits of land won by killing Native Americans or forcing them to live on reservations, places invented by the government & wrought with poverty, alcoholism and drugs (and no, the casinos don't make them money as people think, only near very large cities are they even marginally profitable), and later exploiting children and immigrants, until finally the world realized people have rights. Finally, after WWII, and every other civilized nation was annihalated & disabled from war, the US capitalized on not having competition in the auto & steel markets - our hayday - the good old days in the 50s & 60s where the American Dream came true. Now there's no subgroup left to exploit - so lets go after the police, firefighters, CSB workers & teachers, those who do the most to preserve society, but make sure we leave the double dipping highly paid politicians alone, since they can ensure our wealthiest citizens receive tax cuts.

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20bad(23 comments)posted 5 years ago

DeSouza you are a waste of space who hates government emplyees. Lets get rid of the police, fire, correctional officers and any other public servent and let me know how that works for you. write something worth while... Either you were not hired by the state and you are mad or you are just plain mad at the people who protect you everyday. get a life.

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21theCaliforniaKid(56 comments)posted 5 years ago

De Sala-czar..the outsourcing of journalism, so-called. Give us some Traficant-baiting once again. The lections over for crying out loud

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