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Still need for Ohio bargaining reform

November 16, 2011
Salem News

Clearly, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and conservatives in the General Assembly overreached when they enacted the law commonly referred to as Senate Bill 5. By including multiple provisions limiting collective bargaining by public employees, Kasich and lawmakers set the law up for disaster.

And that is what happened last Tuesday, when voters used Issue 2 on the election ballot to order SB 5 be rescinded. More than 61 percent of ballots cast were against SB 5.

Using an astronomically expensive advertising blitz, unions opposed to SB 5 limited the scope of voters' attention to the matter. A prohibition on collective bargaining over public employee staffing might mean not enough police and firefighters to keep Ohioans safe, the unions insisted. The law and other Kasich-administration initiatives would cost 51,000 Ohio jobs, they added - assuming correctly many voters would see Issue 2 - wrongly - as a job-preservation measure.

Now Kasich and conservative lawmakers must decide whether to try again. The answer to that is yes - and no.

An omnibus law such as SB 5 has no chance of being implemented. Enacting anything like a new SB 5 would invite merely another massive defeat at the polls.

Several provisions in the defunct law would appeal to voters if enacted as separate pieces of legislation, however.

For example, SB 5 contained a provision requiring government employees pay at least 10 percent of the cost of funding their retirement benefits. Few Buckeye State workers in the private sector enjoy defined-benefit pensions funded 90 percent by employers. Why should they - who pay the taxes used to keep public employee pension programs solvent - grant retirement benefits so much better than what they receive?

For those concerned about the quality of public schools in Ohio, another SB 5 provision made sense. It would have allowed cash-strapped school districts forced to lay off teachers to let the least effective go first, without taking seniority into account.

SB 5 forced voters into a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Many decided what they objected to in the law outweighed what they liked.

Breaking SB 5 up into a dozen or more individual parts would give voters more options, however. It is that route Kasich and legislators should choose to salvage something - for Ohio taxpayers - from the rout on Tuesday.



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