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Let Ohioans decide on public pay

Published: Sun, March 6, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

One of the provisions of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining initiative that hasn’t received much attention deals with the role of the taxpayers.

The Republican governor, seeking to change the way all non-public safety state employees are compensated, would give the voters of Wisconsin a say in how much wages can increase.

According to an analysis of the legislation now before the state Senate, employees would retain their collective bargaining rights for wages only, so long as the increases sought are not greater than the change in the consumer price index.

According to cnsnews.com, a wage hike higher than the CPI could be secured only if approved by the voters of Wisconsin.

The news web site quoted the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau as saying “ … unless a referendum authorizes a greater increase, any general employee who is part of a collective bargaining unit is limited to bargaining over a percentage of total base wages increase that is no greater than the percentage change in the consumer price index.”

Gov. Walker, who is embroiled in an intense political battle with Democrats in the legislature, has a great idea — but he doesn’t take it far enough.

The Buckeye State

Since Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, and the GOP controlled General Assembly are following a similar path as their colleagues in Wisconsin, they should give serious thought to the compensation-referendum idea.

But, they should go further than what is being pursued in the Badger State.

Giving Ohioans, especially taxpayers in the private sector, the power to say yes or no to pay raises and other compensation for public employees is a sure way of winning the war of words that is now being waged in Columbus.

Thousands of pro-union demonstrators were on hand for more than a week while the Senate considered sweeping changes to Ohio’s collective bargaining law that was passed in 1984.

The bill, which now goes to the House where passage is all but guaranteed, would allow collective bargaining for all public employees, but limit negotiations to wages, hours, terms and conditions. Other areas, including health-care premium payments, would be excluded.

However, considering that public employees’ wages are a major point of contention for most private sector workers, a vote on the labor contracts hammered out in negotiations would silence the critics.

Since most labor agreements are for three years, having a vote of the people every third year would not be cost prohibitive.

But, the referendum should apply across the board, from the governor on down. A statewide vote would be held for all statutory offices, including judgeships, while residents would decide on the salary increases for local officials and public employees.

Taxpayers are ultimately the employers of those in the public sector, but they do not have a say on wages and benefits.

It has been noted many times before in this space: Eighty percent of operating budgets of governments are gobbled up by payrolls.

Republicans in Columbus, led by Gov. Kasich, are making a strong argument that Ohio cannot cling to the past in the way it operates. Harried private sector taxpayers couldn’t agree more.


During the debate in the Senate on SB5, Democrats complained that they were largely ignored when the GOP leadership rammed through the collective bargaining bill.

Now, Democrats in House have a chance to at least put the majority Republicans on the defensive by pushing an amendment that would give the voters of Ohio a say on any and all wage increases for public employees.

For instance, wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what the people think about Gov. Kasich raising the salaries of some key members of his staff by nearly $100,000, compared to what his predecessor Ted Strickland was paying?

The advantage in giving the people the final say on what those in the public sector should earn is that it will force accountability.

You want a pay raise? Tell me, the taxpayer, what you’ve done to justify it.

As things now stand, the governing principle in the public sector is this: You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours — with money we get by taxing the people.


1NoBS(2653 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

I think that sentiment should start at the top. Let's let the people decide what the President, Vice President, and Congress should be paid. Their benefits, too. Hey, I think I just solved the country's economic crisis!!

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2rasims(9 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

Let's be clear...the problem with our economy has been falsely attributed to union workers. In fact, it is traceable to Wall Street investment banks that created predatory loans that they bet would fail. They made money on the loan AND its failure.

Meanwhile, George "W" Bush fought an unecessary war in Iraq and Afghanistan and didn't bother to pay for it. This turned the country's surplus (thank you Bill Clinton) into a debt after he cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The real estate market imploded and now we want to balance the budget on the backs of working Americans and blame the unions that account for only 8 percent of the for-profit workforce.

Governors are returning money from the Feds to build high-speed rail projects in Ohio and Florida that would produce good-paying jobs by the thousands. Why? So the Obama administration can't see the effects of their policies to restore America for the 2012 elections.

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3NoBS(2653 comments)posted 5 years, 2 months ago

jessiedavid, you wrote: "And the fact that Gov. Kasich chose to begin getting Ohio's debt under control with public employees' unions, in essence tells that he's beginning at the top, to correct the toughest, most entrenched elements that are putting a financial drain on our system."

You're drinking Kasich's Kool Aid. What he's doing to the public employees has nothing to do with money - even the bill's author admits there will be no significant financial rewards from SB5. Consider this: When Kasich was a Lehman Brothers employee, he tried his hardest to get OPERS and OP&FPF to shovel their funds into Lehman's coffers. They didn't, so when Lehman Bros. went belly-up, those pension systems did NOT go bankrupt. However, who are the very first people Kasich wants to 'mess with' ?? Those very same people. It's about control, and it's about crushing those unions. It's not about the money. And the fact that Kasich prioritizes revenge ahead of job creation or even fiscal recovery says much about him as a person.

Regarding your comments on public employees and their treatment by the politicians, you need to educate yourself. Today more than ever the politicians try to renege on the contracts they signed, allegedly in good faith, and SB5 is nothing more than allowing them to bargain with their employees, then not have to live up to their end of the bargain.

As for the notion that we have a true democracy, instead of a representative form of government, as I said above in an earlier post - let's start with the President, Veep, and Congress. Let's see how many of "we the people" think they're worth what they're paid.

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4NoBS(2653 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

JD, you're a little light on facts, there, aren't you? WHAT bought-and-paid-for politicians? WHAT abuses? WHAT power? Your mindless parroting of Kasich's nonsense is laughable.

Why does the Kasich Krew have to keep pulling representatives out of committees and replacing them with Yes Men? Anywhere else, that would be Vote Rigging, which is illegal. The fact that they've had to do that in the Senate AND in the House tells you how unpopular this train wreck of a bill is.

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5NoBS(2653 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

JD - did you really link to the very same editorial you're commenting on? Amazing!

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6300(573 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Jessie, out of curiosity what is the general sector of work that you do?

I ask because you keep saying about the private sector, but I've worked 90% in the private sector and I pay very little for my insurance, I'd had an employer pay 75% of my pension plan while I only contributed 25% (but I left that one a few years back to become self-employed), and I received 5 weeks paid vacation. During that time, I had a master's level education, which is what many of the public employees have.

It's been my anecdotal evidence that most of those pushing this bill, from the perspective that you are, seem to be those in the working class who are envious of the their teaching sister or cop brother. I read an article yesterday about how one of the Wisconsin tea party protester was a barmaid who was angry that cops and teachers made more than she did.

The only other reason to be for this bill is if you're on the business-elite side of the debate, which seems unlikely since you keep bringing up wages and benefits. They'd be for this in the selfish way of seeing this as a way to weaken the political influence of the unions, since they know public employee salaries are, in fact, much lower compared to private sector with the same degree of education and experience. These people, though, don't publicly state that this is why they're for it, since it doesn't put them in a very good light.

And, so I'm not seeming to be hypocritical, I own some commercial real-estate, buy different sorts of investments, take consulting projects when they suit me (which I'm currently working on one now out West), and teach a few courses each year in international trade at a NE Ohio university (but I'm adjunct) when I'm in the position to.

And, so I'm curious what your perspective is, and you don't need to be specific, just be general.

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7spinman(70 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Bertram...do you and the Vindicator plan to endorse all tax levies as you usually do ????.

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