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Is Kasich worth the $148,165?

Published: Sun, October 2, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

With the latest public opinion poll showing an increase in support for Ohio’s new collective bargaining reform law, opponents have decided to personalize their campaign by portraying the architects of the law as hypocrites. Their chief target is Republican Gov. John Kasich, who along with the Republican majority in the General Assembly, decided to take back workplace rights enjoyed by government employees for almost 30 years.

Last week, Innovation Ohio issued a report, “Pay, Perks and Hypocrisy”, that charged Kasich and legislators with not practicing what they preach.

The goal is to get Ohio voters so riled up that they vote no in droves on State Issue 2, a referendum on the collective bargaining law in the Nov. 8 general election.

“The governor and his allies have not only exempted themselves from many of the sacrifices they are demanding of other public employees, but also enjoy salaries, perks and privileges that far exceed those available to regular working Ohioans,” Innovation Ohio contended.

The hard line is no accident. A poll released by Quinnipiac University shows that 38 percent of Ohio voters favor retention of the law, commonly referred to as Senate Bill 5 — a 6 percent increase from July; 51 percent of the voters say SB 5 should be repealed, down from 56 percent two months ago. While the change might not appear significant, the television campaign by proponents will go into high gear this month.

It is not surprising that Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank that includes a veteran Democratic political operative, Dale Butland, has made Kasich the centerpiece of its campaign. The governor’s approval rating in the poll showed slight improvement, but still reflects widespread discontent.

Here are some of the taking points IO hopes will get Ohioans up in arms:

Gov. Kasich earns $148,165 a year, $10,000 more than what his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland earned, and is eligible to receive automatic 3 percent “step increases.” SB 5 contains “performance pay” provisions and does not permit step increases for the public union employees.

Kasich’s 27 cabinet members earn an average base pay of more than $131,000 and at least 22 of them receive an additional $6,000 a year in car allowance. At least seven of the cabinet members are double dippers who are on government pensions in addition to receiving their salaries.

All members of the General Assembly earn $60,584 for part-time work, while the average salary of all Ohio workers is just over $40,000. Among the 70 representatives and senators who voted for SB 5, only eight earn the minimum legislative salary. The remaining 62 receive “leadership bonuses” ranging from nearly $34,000 a year to $5,000. The average bonus is $8,600.

Twelve House and Senate members are double dippers — one is a triple dipper. House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, receives over $100,000 in PERS pension, in addition to his legislative salary of $94,500.

Under SB 5, paid sick leave and vacation days would be reduced for average public workers, but members of the General Assembly receive unlimited sick pay for any reason — with the approval of the House and Senate leadership.

“Politicians who support SB 5 and State Issue 2 obviously do not embarrass easily,” Butland said in a news release. “There’s a word for politicians who propose one set of rules for themselves and a different one for everyone else. It’s spelled ‘hypocrisy’ with a capital ‘H.’”

The charge of hypocrisy against officeholders is not new, but Republicans in state government have put themselves on the firing line by their highly partisan approach to the collective bargaining reform law. They shut out the Democrats in the General Assembly and turned a deaf ear to appeals from the labor unions. The result was a statewide petition drive to force a referendum vote in the general election. More than 1 million Ohioans signed the petitions.

Accumulated time

Kasich has long argued the public sector should follow what has been going on in the private sector with regard to health care premiums, pensions and even work rules. He can lead the way by pushing legislation that would do away accumulated sick leave and vacation time for all public employees in Ohio.

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