LISBON - With only a week until the Nov. 8 election and Senate Bill 5 behind in the polls, Gov. John Kasich stopped in Hanoverton on Tuesday to make his case for why voters should leave the controversial legislation intact.
Kasich said Senate Bill 5 is designed to make government less costly, which is a key component of his overall strategy of restoring state's competitive edge for attracting news business and encouraging existing businesses to expand.
"If you don't have low costs, if you don't have low taxes, if you don't have regulations that are reasonable, people will find work somewhere else and companies won't come here," he said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich addresses the crowd at a Senate Bill 5 rally at the historic Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton Tuesday. (Salem News photo by Patti Schaeffer)
State Issue 2 is on the ballot and it seeks to repeal Senate Bill 5, which weakens the negotiating power of Ohio's government public employee unions and requires state and local government workers to contribute more toward their benefits. A "yes" vote on Issue 2 would retain SB5, while a "no" vote would repeal the measure.
As an example of what the governor was talking about, Kasich noted the city of Lancaster recently was forced to lay off 14 firefighters. One of the provisions of SB5 prohibits government bodies from paying the employees' 10 percent portion of their pension contribution.
"If (firefighters) started the pension pick-up (the city) would have a million extra bucks. How many firefighters can you hire for a million bucks? So the situation is if we can control your cost by asking our public employees to pay 10 percent of their guaranteed pension and 15 percent of their health care," those jobs might have been saved, he said.
Another example Kasich cited was American Greeting Card, which was planning to leave Ohio until his administration intervened. He said one of the reasons American Greeting Card was leaving the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn was because the city was raising taxes for public services, and the company ended up relocating to Westlake.
Kasich said lower government costs also reduces pressure on local governments to raise taxes on citizens, and high taxes are a disincentive for businesses looking to expand or relocate.
"We have to be reform oriented. We got to figure out a way to deliver a better product to all of you at a lower price," Kasich told the crowd of about 250.
Also addressing the crowd was Marilyn Parkes of East Liverpool, who has seen the public employee union issue from all sides as a former teacher and union official, and now as an administrator with the Columbiana County Education Service Center.
"Once I suggested to my fellow union leaders that we offer free tutoring to students who hadn't passed the ninth grade proficiency test. That was a no-no. I was told that we were here for the benefit of the bargaining unit members," she recalled.
"Voting yes on Issue 2 will benefit students and also benefit teachers because districts will have the money to pay their salaries and they will be able to retain the best teachers, regardless of seniority," Parkes said.
State Rep. Craig Newbold, R-Columbiana, also spoke. Newbold, who voted for the SB5, said reforming the collective bargaining law is a key component of bringing government spending under control and helping keep taxes low.
He said the average private sector worker in the county earns $200 less a week than a government worker in the county. "I don't know about anyone else, but that sounds upside down to me," Newbold said.
Two groups of SB5 opponents totaling about 20 showed up and positioned themselves at opposite ends of Plymouth Street, where the rally was held. They remained behind a security perimeter that had been established to control access to the rally, which was an invitation-only event. Aside from an occasional catcall, opponents mostly remained silent while holding Issue 2 signs.
One of those opponents was Liberty firefighter Bill Opsitnik, who said SB5 went way too far in the restrictions it places on collective bargaining. "If they had negotiated some those things they probably would have been able to reach a compromise," he said.
"This isn't a fight against the union. It's a fight against the middle class," said Paul Cubellis, a retired autoworker from Austintown. "I don't see many millionaires (among the protesters) unless they're all inside" the Spread Eagle Tavern, where the rally was being held.