Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ohio Nov 8th, 2011 Voting Guide, Part 1 of 2

“Referendum on new law relative to government union contracts and other government employment contracts and policies”

A vote on whether to keep SB 5. A “Yes” vote keeps. A “No” repeals.

You've likely seen the flyers for and against Issue 2, both of which really fail to give some proper context or outright lie. So, I'll illuminate the issue for you, and I'll have a copy of the bill by my side for fact-checking purposes. This bill is an attempt at saving money in the state budget by altering and permitting alteration to public worker contracts. Public workers in this context includes teachers, firefighters, and police. Politicians and upper management are excluded from it.

The “good”:
SB5 requires that public employees pay at least 15% of their health care premiums, still less than the average private sector worker. The stickler is that most public employees already do pay this. So while reasonable, this isn't a big money saver.

It would ban employers from paying any of the employees’ 10% pension contribution. It is a lie that public workers don't contribute to their pension account; however, currently employers can agree to pick-up a portion of the workers' contribution. They are required to contribute 10% but banning employers from helping out with that payment could save some money.

Changed language in the bill does now allow workers to bargain for “…equipment issues directly related to personal safety...” which the original version didn't allow.

Where it gets dicey:
The bill (SB5, page 18) makes employee performance the only determining factor for raises and job retention. This means that teachers who teach Honors English will likely always get raises, and that teachers who teach troubled kids in inner cities schools will likely not ever see a raise again. Teacher performance is measured by classroom performance.

It prohibits employees for bargaining against anything an employer deems reasonable (SB5, page 230). This extremely vague language gives carte blanche power to employers against our public servants so long as one side calls it reasonable. It is actually pretty disturbing the number of times “reasonable” is used throughout the document without ever defining “reasonable.”

What can we expect in public schools? We can expect higher-paid senior teachers to be laid off. We can expect classroom sizes to be doubled and divided up among lower-compensated younger teachers. That should cause student performance to decrease, thereby reducing the need to give performance increases to teachers. Similarly, we can expect reduced staffing levels among police and firefighters.

And in the rare case where public workers do get to negotiate something with their employer, the outcome will no longer be decided by a neutral third party. It will now be decided by the employer.

While there is not significant cost savings in SB5, it will allow for many cost-savings changes to be made in the future. However, all of these changes are likely to decrease the quality of service we receive from our public servants. Anything “reasonable” in this bill is overshadowed by the “unreasonable.”

It is not accurate to say that the recession was caused by our public workers, nor is it fair to exclude the politicians and upper management from “necessary” cost saving changes. Public workers have already agreed to $350 million in savings through unpaid furloughs and pay freezes. It doesn't sit well with me that politicians give tax breaks to their contributors and try to balance the budget on the backs of the little guys.

It wouldn't be necessary to harm our public servants if giveaway tax breaks to businesses would actually lure new businesses to Ohio. Some say we must make cuts to in order to make low-tax lures for new businesses, but that wouldn't be true if we made low-tax lures that worked. The reason for this is that new business creates new workers. New workers pay more state taxes. Employed people spend and have to pay local sales taxes. Meanwhile, a bill like SB5 which will lead to more layoffs will decrease employed consumers. Not only will it decrease the quality of public service of in Ohio, it may possibly cause economic harm due to causing more unemployment. Additionally, harming education in Ohio could mean less successful entrepreneurs, worse leaders, and less innovation for the future.

There is always the risk that when the government does something, it ends up causing more harm than it does do good. Senate Bill 5 is such a case, and that's why I'll be voting no on Issue 2.

The issues, the official arguments, and a copy of SB5: 
Why this Republican opposes SB5:
Collected news articles regarding SB5:

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