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SB 5: It’s all about the money

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

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Millions of dollars will be spent by proponents and opponents of Ohio’s new collective bargaining reform law that’s up for a vote of the people in the Nov. 8 general election.

But that isn’t the money at the center of the debate over the law, commonly referred to as Senate Bill 5. There are two important studies that reflect the positions of the two sides.

For the proponents, the Buckeye Institute For Public Policy Solutions’ “The Grand Bargain is Dead” has become the rallying cry. The secondary title of the study is, “The Compensation of State Government Workers Far Exceeds Their Private-Sector Neighbors.”

For the opponents of S.B. 5, the Economic Policy Institute’s “Are Ohio Public Employees Over-Compensated?” is serving as the antidote to the commonly held perception that public employees are overpaid and underworked.

(It is true that the perception has been fed in this space for many years — based on this writer’s first-hand knowledge of local governments.)

Heart of the debate

Wages and benefits are at the heart of just about every debate involving public vs. private employment. That’s because private sector workers have had to ride out the national economic storm by accepting wage freezes, higher health insurance premium payments, frozen pensions and even givebacks.

By contract, public employees are surviving the recession relatively unscathed — even though the money they are paid mostly comes from taxpayers in the private sector.

Hence, the growing resentment — which the Buckeye Institute and the Republicans in Columbus, including Gov. John Kasich and the leadership in the General Assembly, are feeding.

Here’s how the Buckeye Institute characterizes the public/private compensation divide:

“Currently, a median state government worker makes 24.6 percent more than her private sector peer ($36,858 v. $29,586). Using this comparison and the 2009 state pay data, a 19.73 percent cut in pay (the percentage needed to reduce the state government worker’s pay to her private-sector peer’s pay) would save Ohioans roughly $639,889,878 in the next year.”

But the Economic Policy Institute counters with research that, it says, shows state and local government employees in Ohio are not overpaid.

“Comparisons controlling for education, experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and disability reveal that employees of state and local governments earn lower wages than comparable private sector employees. Average annual wages and salaries of full-time state and local public employees in Ohio are 5.9 percent lower than those of comparable private sector employees.”

When wage and nonwage benefits are taken into consideration, Ohio public employees annually earn 6 percent less than comparable private sector employees, the institute says.

But the key to the arguments being used by the opponents to S.B. 5 to counter the proponents’ claims is contained in the following paragraph: “These comparisons account for important factors that affect earnings, the most important of which is level of education. Because occupations in the public sector require much higher levels of education, Ohio public sector workers, on average, are more highly educated than private sector workers.”

Higher education

Consider the following statistics: 49 percent of full-time public sector workers in the state hold at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 26 percent of full-time private sector workers. Ohio state and local governments pay college educated employees 25 percent less in annual total compensation, on average, than private employees, the institute contends.

The labor strife at Youngstown State University has focused public attention on the fact that the $70,000-plus average salary for faculty is way higher than the $24,000 median income of a family of four in Mahoning County.

Thus, the question: At what point does the public sector become unsustainable?

Gov. Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly say that point is now, which is why the new collective bargaining law, which strips public employees of many of their rights, is necessary.

Opponents of S.B. 5 counter that the Republicans are simply out to destroy the public employee unions in Ohio.


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

The simple fact is that my taxes keep increasing. Public sector employees are not willing to accept responsibilty for the same level of costs on a percentage basis as private sector workers. Goverment has no alternative but to increase my taxes.

SB5 will provide the necessary tools to level the playing field. Yes I will be voting my wallet.

ISSUE 2 must be defeated or simply put our taxes will keep going up.

Maybe the education system needs to be privatized.

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2NoBS(2698 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

SB 5 is all about union-busting, plain and simple. The amount the Kasich Krew will spend to try to brainwash the public into accepting this wrong-headed law far outweighs any savings it might generate. The pro-SB 5 side is only interested in dividing the public - creating the illusion that one group is the "haves" and another is the "have-nots." They hope to divide and conquer, first the public employee unions, then the private sector unions.


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3piak(508 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Private sector unions are NOT the same as public employee unions. No way the same. So, the situations are NOT the same.

In the private sector, the union and company negotiate. Eventually a deal is struck for salaries, perks and working conditions. I ain't paying for any of the settlement in this case because it comes down to how profitable the company is and if I like their product. My only "contribution" if you can call it that is if I buy their product.

In public employee negotiations with a school system or municipality, there is no company "management" as there is in private sector unions. Thus, the "employees" have an advantage in that if they withhold their services, all hell breaks loose in the community. Schools gotta open on time, police need to be on patrol, fire personnel need to be ready for duty...etc. And who's negotiating? Frequently it is some elected official who is concerned about re-election.

So, I am not concerned about the bargaining rights of private sector unions being adversely affected.

This whole situation with the public service unions needs to be brought under control.
How about a citizen's panel that also sits in on these bargaining sessions? No, that won't happen. But it would be the easiest way out.

Until then, Vote YES for Issue 2.

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4redvert(2231 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

6636, you forgot one important little detail. In right to work states the worker still has a right to join a union. They are not forced to belong to a union in order to be employed at a certain job. Small detail you chose to leave out.

As for your being "let go" for no reason, bet there is another side to that story, another thing that you forgot to mention.

By the way, I retired from a nonunion company in Florida 12 years ago and am living more comfortably with homes paid for in both Ohio and Florida. Of course I always advanced in my career field based on my performance, not when bubba who had one more day of senority than me left or croaked.

No one is against what unions accomplished many years ago, the problem is what they have turned into. The rank and file have no say so, they just serve as dues paying lemmings!

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5redvert(2231 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Let me add this article for your reading pleasure from today's Vindy! Think the union mentality might have something to do with this. Hell, even Florida is in better shape than Ohio!!!


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6southsidedave(5185 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

I definitely agree that SB 5 is all about union-busting.

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7YSUisYtown(11 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Re: "The labor strife at Youngstown State University has focused public attention on the fact that the $70,000-plus average salary for faculty is way higher than the $24,000 median income of a family of four in Mahoning County."

Yes it is this kind of false reasoning that keeps pulling Youngstown deeper and deeper into a pit. That anybody who makes more than below average doesn't deserve to live here. I know another ideology similar to this. It is called "command economy". Comrade, I will not make more than you because we are all equal in serving the state. And, when we are all equal in serving the state, there is no incentive to do better. And when there is no incentive to do better, alcoholism, drugs, and crime replace desire to strive for improvement. Culture and economy stagnate. And Youngstown continues to slide downward because it doesn't value its talent.

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8observer21(17 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Typical BS from the Vindy. Exactly what is the educational level of the average household making $24,000 that the vindy cites? The professors at YSU have a Ph.D. That takes an average of 10 years of advanced education. To compare the salary of a Ph.D. to a high school dropout, and then say that professors make too much goes a long way in showing what is wrong with the Vindy and with Youngstown.

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9VindyPost(436 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

" Opponents of S.B. 5 counter that the Republicans are simply out to destroy the public employee unions in Ohio. "

Kasick is considered the "great divider" of time; defying members of his own party, also. Watch out! His con- artsy moves are obviously and evidently hurting ALL Ohioians. His primary goal is union bust.
SB 5 is not and never has been about jobs or deficits — it’s always been about the “Three Ps” of power, politics and pay-back.

***Beware Kasick Klan.***
***Beware Kasick Kool-aid.***
***Beware Kasick Kronies.***
***Beware Kasick Krew.***
***Beware Kasick Kollapse.***

Ohioians will remain optimistic, remain vigilant, and most importantly...

***VOTE NO On Issue 2! ***



***VOTE NO On Issue 2!***

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10AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Now, in the most recent move, quietly, effective with the first paycheck of the new fiscal year, Niehaus has followed the lead of the Governor by rewarding his top staff with enormous taxpayer-funded pay increases. His Chief of Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff, Finance Director and Senate Clerk all received a $15,000 yearly pay increase. The Deputy Finance Directory received a whopping $23,005 increase. Here are their new salaries:

Senate Staff Member Title New Salary
Matt Schuler Chief of Staff $138,507
Elizabeth Connolly Deputy Chief of Staff $116,126
Brian Perera Finance Director $115,232
Vincent Keera** Senate Clerk $116,230
Matt Whatley Deputy Dir of Finance $85,010

Furthermore, the increases were retroactive, such that on July 16, these same staffers each took home checks containing 26 weeks of back pay at the higher rate, as if their raises had been in place since January. Whatley received a check for $10,123.20. Perera got $11,930.40, Connolly $11,964.80. And Schuler took home $12,825.61 for a single 2-week pay period.

So, after passing SB5 which eliminates automatic 3% pay increases for state workers, the Senate handed their own staff raises ranging from 12 to 37%.

Senators’ pay is defined by Ohio law, so they are unable to give themselves raises without legislation, or we suspect they would have. But nothing stops them from paying their staff more, even in the face of enormous budget cuts across state and local government.

One last irony to note. While Republicans champion “merit pay” for other public workers, apparently it’s not good enough for them. Raises were given exclusively to Republican staffers; not a single member of the minority caucus staff received an increase. Sounds like politics, not merit, was behind the move.

Not to shabby for the repubs. Trying to shaft the unions while accepting PAY RAISES retroactive back to January


Vote NO on issie 2

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11Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Being special . The special ones .

Are we in a perion of austerity ? Many believe that we are . The special ones ( AKA GOVERNMENT WORKERS UNIONS ) are not going to allow austerity to pertain to them . THE MASSES CAN BE TAXED TO THE LIMIT ONE MORE TIME . For goverment workers there is no need for austerity or SB5 . Don't ask what the government workers unions can do for you but what you can do for the government workers unions !

Yes Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer they want you to support the repeal of SB5 and bring your austerity well into the poverty zone with increased taxation to support their largesse .


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12AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

jessie WRITES
"The examples of tax money given to a retired YSU President's, and Y-Town police chief are mind boggling, partly because there were no great accomplishments"

For the uninformed , The YSU President and the Y-town police chief will not be effected by sb5. sb5 is all about UNIONS. The 2 individuals are not part of the union.
If it truely were about saving money sb5 would be for ALL public workers. But kasich did not do that. sb5(issue 2) is ONLY ABOUT SHAFTING UNION WORKERS>

Jessie, Please do not use ORANGES to describe APPLES. Very misleading.

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13AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

The raises given to repub staffers just shows us that its not about the money. Its about the unions and taking away their rights. If it was about equality why did non of the DEMs staffers get raises?

What abusive power do the unions have? Like giving raises to the repubs only and nobody else. THAT IS ABUSE OF POWER

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14AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago


3 months ago you made ONE good statement......

As you know thats how the UNIONS WORK get over it or JOIN A UNION

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15db(280 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Labor unions built this area 80 years ago; they destroyed this area 30 years ago; and now in the age of globalization their time has passed. The UAW bankrupted General Motors and we taxpayers bailed them out (but we at least have a choice of whether to buy their product). The Valley is avoided by industry because of its horrendous union-trouble history. Government Services Unions produce nothing & are a load on the taxpayer. Their contracts are little more than kickback schemes between the Democratic politicians and the union bosses in benefits-for-votes deals foisted upon the taxpayer. We don't have a choice as to whether to pay our taxes; your home will be taken from you if you refuse. In any other setting these kickbacks are called collusion and bribery; and are illegal. Vote YES on SB5.

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16DwightK(1531 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

People keep saying their taxes are being increased but don't back up that statement. Federal income taxes are down, Social Security contributions are down and local taxes only go up if levies are passed. So what taxes are people talking about when they say "taxes keep going up"?

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17RickJude7496(16 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

"By contract, public employees are surviving the recession relatively unscathed — even though the money they are paid mostly comes from taxpayers in the private sector."

Thats right, because public employees don't pay taxes or anything.

Wouldnt a public employee who makes more than a private employee be paying more taxes back into the system?

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18AnotherAverageCitizen(1183 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago


You will soon learn the teapubs say how much money public unions make. But when they talk taxes, it is only coming from private sector workers.

Maybe if the city, state, and teapubs realized public workers pay taxes too, then they can have more money to balance the budget. Since teapubs don't add in what public sector folks pay into taxes.

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19Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

A period of austerity is a time to go lean for most people . The special ones demand more of your less and less . For them there is no need for austerity nor for SB5 . There is however a need for your less and less and higher taxes to get it .


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20JME(802 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

"When your community says only one firemen is needed to cover a city or township, will you be happy with that service when your house is on fire? Answer is no becuase you will be dead becuase the one firemen would not enter your home alone."

This is exactly what will happen if Issue2/SB5 is defeated.
Local Governements will be unable to control their costs, and will have to resort to laying off to reduce spending!
Unless of course they can convince the taxpayers to give more - good luck on that one.

So the options are (1) save jobs by having public employees contribute more toward health insurance, etc.. Or (2) cut costs by laying off fireman, policeman, teachers, etc.

Option 2 will be the result of a "no" vote on Issue 2. There is no money to maintain the "status quo".

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21JME(802 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

"Years ago, Mike Bell lost his job as a firefighter because his city ran out of money. As mayor, he's working to fix his city without laying off good people or raising taxes. That's why he's supporting State Issue 2, which gives our cities the tools they need to get spending under control and balance budgets without raising taxes or laying off good employees."


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22PAborn(21 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

JME - Mike Bell lost his job before collective bargaining laws took effect, so I'm not quite sure how that connection can be made. Mike Bell consistently uses the threat of layoffs to force his will on the public employees of Toledo. Mike is no saint out to save public dollars. He has been double- and triple-dipping on pensions for years. The folks who support SB5 and Issue 2 count on people like you to believe their commercials and to look no further for the truth. It's funny how the people the Repubs hold up as beacons of light and truth in this issue are the ones making the most money - not the union employees. Creativity in Repub advertising some might say. In fact, it's just more Repub lies designed to scare voters. VOTE NO ON ISSUE 2!!!

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23Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Many of us are willing to sacrice more and more to make do with less and less . Paying the extra tax load so the special ones aren't affected or offended .

Does austerity mean living high off the hog ?


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24JME(802 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

"Mike Bell lost his job before collective bargaining laws took effect, so I'm not quite sure how that connection can be made."

It's completely irrevalent whether Bell was under a contract or not.
No money = layoffs.
What happened in Canfield when voters said NO to two consecutive school levys? Cutbacks, both times! Under SB5 the school district could have raised health care employee contributions so it could reduce it's expenses and save money, which would have saved jobs! Just like it happened at the Wisconsin school district.

SOC, less money coming in means less workers you can have. It's pretty simple!

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