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Kill 3-High formula for pensions

Published: Sun, December 4, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Don’t look for Republicans in Columbus to fast-track legislation dealing with public employees’ pensions and health insurance. They can smell victory in Ohio in next year’s presidential election and aren’t about to risk inflaming a formidable political force — the labor unions — as they had done earlier this year. That dust up resulted in a major defeat for the GOPers in the November general election.

The reluctance to act expeditiously on legislation that private-sector taxpayers would enthusiastically embrace is unfortunate. Republican Gov. John Kasich and his allies in the General Assembly could have ridden the tidal wave sweeping Britain as a result of the Conservative government’s taking aim at public-sector employees.

The government says the nation cannot afford the lucrative pension benefits and has proposed major changes.

The one that would be an easy sell in Ohio — at least with private-sector workers — has to do with the formula for calculating benefits. Currently, a pension is based on final-salary contortions, but the British government has come up with a brilliant idea: Base the pension on a worker’s average pay throughout his working life.

Average highest salaries

The effect of this is plain to see. In Ohio, public employee pensions are determined by taking the average of the three highest years of salary — commonly referred to as “3-High” — and that has led to the corruption of the system.

As a worker approaches retirement age, he looks around for a job that would boost his salary. More often than not, such a promotion is not based on qualifications or experience, but on political connections and personal relationships. In other words, it isn’t necessarily the cream of the public work force that rises to the top.

Then there are the elected officials who also spend their time trying to figure out how to boost their own pensions. They troll for other elective offices that pay higher salaries, or get themselves appointed to boards or commissions that are financially lucrative.

In addition to changing the way the average salary is calculated, the British government also wants public employees to work several years more than they now do before they retire, and to contribute more for their pensions.

In Ohio, polls show broad support for those on taxpayer-supported public payrolls to contribute at least 10 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and a minimum of 15 percent of the cost of their health-care coverage.

That message came through loud and clear during this year’s battle between the public-sector labor unions and the Republicans over the collective-bargaining-reform law. The measure was pushed through by Gov. Kasich and the GOP controlled General Assembly and was designed to strip the more than 300,000 public employees of many of the workplace rights they have enjoyed for almost three decades.

The unions, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, launched an all-out battle to stop the law from taking effect. They succeeded in putting it up for a referendum vote in the November general election and were able to persuade Ohioans to reject the law.

The defeat of State Issue 2 was a major blow to Kasich and his allies.

However, the governor said he would push for legislation to change the pension and health insurance contributions to reflect what is going on in the private sector.

But now, the word from Columbus is that the Republicans aren’t going to tackle this political hot potato any time soon. Why?

Because the GOP thinks that 2012 will be a political home run for them.

Low approval rating

With President Barack Obama unable to gain traction in public opinion polls — his approval rating has remained below 50 percent for quite some time — and with Democratic Party insiders warning that his presence on the ticket could be disastrous, the Republicans nationally see an opportunity to not only win the presidency, but to take over the Senate. Republicans now control the House.

Republicans have also glommed onto a New York Times column in which writer Thomas B. Edsall revealed that the Obama campaign has decided to abandon the white working class. A sizable number of Ohio Democrats fit in that category, particularly in heavily Democratic areas like the Mahoning Valley.

With union workers not being courted by the president, Republicans will be trying to curry favor with them.


1NoBS(2645 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I disagree with your idea that Republicans are eagerly awaiting victory in next year's presidential election, and are willing to antagonize a considerable portion of the electorate based on the fantasy that they will retain all seats. Have you forgotten already how resoundingly Kasich, et al were informed that their treatment of Middle Class working people was unacceptable? Are you unable to recognize that nationwide, the electorate is as upset and frustrated with the Republicans as they are with the Democrats?

While I agree our state government won't be fast-tracking any legislation dealing with public employees' pensions or other benefits, I say this is because they, the state government, doesn't do ANYTHING rapidly, except perhaps things for their own personal gain. They're dancing on the edge of the same voter disgruntlement that put them into office, and I'd hope not all of them are so clueless as to not recognize that. The "Throw The Bums Out" sentiment is starting to grow, nationwide. Our state government would do well to pay attention.

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2VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I like the idea of the "Throw the bums out" movement and am all for it. My concern is with who we choose to replace them. Let's not follow party lines, but instead look at the candidate and what he or she offers.

We need to rein in rampant spending and higher taxes that come with it. Let's not fall into the "class warfare" trap, which does not solve our problems, but rather increases them.

Don't let these candidates divide us so they can conquer us. Remember, we are the ones paying the bills, so we want people who spend our money to be honest, reliable and trustworthy...something Washington has not seen in quite some time.

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3redeye1(5512 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Vindyak I agree with you about voting out the bums in there now. But those that do run are nothing more then puppets for their party . No, one who runs has the B^ll$ to stand up for their constituents. They become greedy for themselves too. If the people really wanted to clean up our Gov't they would make it illegal for lobbyists to pay or give our Gov't officials anything.

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42muchtax(888 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

That would be the day a democrat especially hagan, Ryan or Hanni to do something that would piss the unions off. There is a bill in ohio now that is asking that once a public employee terriers they cannot come back and double this Happens all the time and was a well kept secret like the Drop program that allowed jimmy Hughes walk with 550,000 and dr Wendy Webb walk with 111,000 in sick pay. Ohio state patrol retire at 20 yrs to go back and double dip as truck inspectors. These are all ways the union has helped to rip the taxpayers off. Sheriff Wellington has been double dipping for years.

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