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Repeal of SB 5 means there’s work to be done in Columbus

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

During the long and varied de- bate leading up to Tuesday’s vote on state Issue 2, the referendum on Senate bill 5, we heard any number of public employee labor leaders say that their members understood the need for change. All suggested that they were willing to pay the 10 percent share of their public pensions and a 15 percent copay toward their health insurance.

So in the wake of Tuesday’s vote, the General Assembly should move quickly to approve imposition of the 10/15 cost sharing portion of SB 5, because local governments and school districts are going to need those savings and more.

Gov. John Kasich, who campaigned hard for yes votes on Issue 2 conceded defeat last night and said he understands “the people have spoken.” But he added that there will be no bailouts for local governments.

Kasich and Republicans in the General Assembly balanced the biennial budget, in part, on the backs of local governments and then offered SB 5 as the tool with which those local governments could cut their costs by not only imposing cost sharing minimums but by tilting the bargaining process so far in management’s favor that unions rebelled. Kasich and most of the Republicans in Columbus gambled, and they lost.

Time to focus

It is now incumbent on the governor and Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly to work on legislation that is focused on reining in abuses and reducing costs for local schools and governments without treating every public employee as an enemy of the state.

As we’ve already said, requiring minimum employee contributions toward pensions and health care coverage is a good place to start.

As we said Sunday, when we recommended a no vote on Issue 2, other areas worth pursuing include :

Eliminating accumulated vacation time and sick leave for purposes of cashing-out at retirement.

Providing greater transparency in public pensions by giving the public access to information on individual retirees, which would guard against some of the double-dipping abuses that drive up pension costs and could threaten the viability of some of the state pension systems.

Reforming or replacing binding arbitration as an alternative to public safety strikes. Too often arbitrators look only at a subdivision’s bottom line of the day and approve pay raises that local government or a school board cannot afford in the long run without seeking additional taxes.

While the voters spoke yesterday on Issue 2, they also sent a message about their almost universal unwillingness to approve additional local taxes.

That really isn’t a mixed message, it is a nuanced message to which Democrats and Republicans in Columbus must respond — beginning today.

Until proven otherwise, Ohio remains a swing state, and a state in which there’s stronger evidence today than yesterday that Ohioans expect all their elected representatives to be able to work together for the common good.