Vindy's Government Watch vs. SB5


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by Todd Franko (Contact)   | 340 entries"> Untitled document

The feedback we’re getting for our Government Watch continues to be strong from both directions — lovers and haters.

A point of clarification seems to be in order because regardless of the viewpoints, many people have said they believe The Vindy’s “Government Watch” and Gov. Kasich’s SB5 are synonymous — that we created Government Watch as a way to support SB5.

Some things to know:
• Government Watch has its roots long before Kasich took office. To be fair, the SB5 debate has intensified public interest on government spending. But the idea came before all of this.
• It traces some of its origins to a reader request coming out of the November elections. So, yes, we do read reader comments and react. Government Watch is a result.
• Government Watch gained more interest with me when the July 2010 pay raises in the county prosecutor’s office became known to me just after the November 2010 elections.
• We’ve offered plenty of pro-SB5 coverage. Just about every demonstration has received coverage.

That last point is ironic to the point of humorous: People on both sides have yelled at us for being hypocrites: “How can you print all those salaries and still go cover the anti-SB5 rally at YSU?”

We will give you both sides. I think we’re pretty good in terms of respecting more than one viewpoint and compartmentalizing the concerns, unlike: 

I'm disappointed in a prison guard union effort to scare small Valley businesses that are chamber members because of the chamber’s stance on SB5. I have my concerns with what the chamber does. But I think it’s important to separate the actions of chamber leadership from the hundreds of members who join for reasons beyond a love of Tom Humphries.

I would never have thought, in my disappointment with Humphries, to trace down the ranks of the chamber members and go after a Joe’s Plumbing and Heating. It’s that tactic that I think earns baggage for the union ranks and grows momentum for things like SB5.

Focus on Humphries if need be. Extend it to the board of directors. But a guy who owns Joe’s Plumbing? Come on ...

Here’s one businessman’s email on that:

"I do not believe that the likes of these union people would stoop this low as to threaten my business directly due to only fact that I am a chamber member, without even knowing that my main reason I am a member is to have affordable health insurance for my family and my employees, also to the fact that I have recently in the last 3 years experienced a serious health issue that required me to have surgery. These people do not even realize without my membership and current health insurance policy being through a group plan with the chamber, I cannot even consider quitting the chamber as I would not be able to get insurance for myself or my employees."

There are plenty of things to sort out and debate with Kasich’s plans. SB5 is just one of them.

In sorting, we need to compartmentalize and focus the concerns. Attacking everyone accomplishes nothing. I think in sorting out the issues with government spending, that’s where Government Watch comes in.

It’s not Union Watch or SB5 Watch. It watches things like this:

Canfield schools are in Monday’s Vindy with a plan to not go back to voters in August with a levy vote, but instead survey citizens to learn more about their concerns and interests.

I imagine one citizen concern will be this: If you needed more money, why did you keep spending the last three years like we were all flush with cash?

The years 2008, 2009 and 2010 will be best summed up as: $4 gas, real estate crash, automotive crash, bank crash, double-digit unemployment, retail collapse and more.

But for Canfield schools, it meant: 2008 — 3.1 percent wage hike; 2009 — 3.5 percent wage hike; 2010 — 3.0 percent wage hike.
This is not just teachers. The superintendent’s pay grew 1.9, 4.3 and 3.1 percent in those three years.
My school district — Poland — did the same. Staffers also got an additional 1 percent each year ($500 if you’re at $50,000) if you proved your national accreditation each year. I would guess that the 1 percent is standard pay bump at most schools.

Prison union president Doug Sollitto, who launched the anti-chamber move, is by no means making school superintendent cash. But those same three years in question, his take-home pay grew by 8 percent each year, according to a state watchdog web site. (A consistent overtime amount factored in that total.)

So ... SB5 is far from perfect. Our tax laws are imperfect as well -- allowing some generous shelters to some wealthy people and companies. But you can’t overlook the government wage and benefits spending that has gone on in this time as well.

I did actually have one leading government official concede last week that government benefits will have to change.

His take was: banking had a huge correction, automotive had a huge correction, real estate had a huge correction. Government will have to do so, too.

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