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‘Yes’ vote on Issue 2 will help Ohioans

November 6, 2011
Salem News

The rhetoric over Ohio Issue 2, the proposed repeal of the controversial Senate Bill 5, has escalated to nearly hysterical proportions. Campaigns on both sides of the issue are fueling the hysteria with sensational and oftentimes misleading information.

Hopefully, Ohio voters can sift through the information more rationally than it's being presented. If they do, then we are confident that Ohio's public employee collective bargaining reform will be upheld in Tuesday's election.

First and foremost is to understand that "yes" and "no" votes apply to the law, not the proposed repeal. So voters must decide that either yes they are for Senate Bill 5 or no they are against Senate Bill 5.

The law has many important benefits, the most significant of which is it goes a long way toward restoring the middle class taxpayers' control of their government with several empowering reforms. That control had been lost at the negotiating table where nobody represented local taxpayers.

While SB5 would prohibit local and state governments from bargaining with unions over some issues, such as the number of workers on payrolls, it does not ban negotiations over wages or worker safety.

SB5 implements reasonable protection against making taxpayers "pay" an unfair proportion of their benefits. For example, it would require public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, a lot less than the average private sector worker who pays 31 percent. This does not impact state employees, who already pay 15 percent.

Another common sense change is the law requires government workers to pay at least 10 percent of their salaries toward their pensions while continuing to have the taxpayers contribute far more than that, up to 24.5 percent for some. In the private sector, the average worker does not have a pension and receives far smaller contributions from employers toward retirement plans (4 percent on average) and Social Security (6.25 percent).

Despite campaign ads to the contrary, SB5 does not address public employee wages except it eliminates the automatic longevity increases, nor does it address what government workers receive in retirement. The law does encourage merit raises similar to what President Barack Obama proposed for teachers in 2009.

No one denies the value of police officers, firefighters and teachers in any community. But in today's world there is a limit as to what a community can afford, and someone has to have the courage to stand up for that limit. There are many other government jobs, meanwhile, with private sector counterparts - secretaries, mechanics, clerks, data entry, custodians, groundskeepers, garbage collectors, etc. - in which the public workers enjoy disproportionately higher and better wages and perks.

Local governments already spend too much of their budgets, in some cases more than 80 percent, on salaries and benefits. That doesn't leave enough money to buy the tools workers need to do their jobs.

The size and cost of Ohio's local governments is unsustainable. Ohio's middle class taxpayers need relief. They need a "yes" vote on Issue 2.



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