Senate Bill 5 Moves On

By a one-vote margin, the Ohio Senate today passed Senate Bill 5, the controversial legislation to modify the collective bargaining rights of public employees.  The vote came as pro-union demonstrators again flooded the Ohio Statehouse and its grounds to try to stir up opposition to the measure.  The union protesters manage to get six Republicans to break ranks with leadership and vote against the bill — but they needed seven defections to kill the bill.  The measure now moves to the Ohio House, where it is expected to pass.  Governor John Kasich supports the bill and would sign it if it makes it to his desk.

I respect the public employees who came to Columbus to exercise their free speech rights and oppose Senate Bill 5, but I believe it is a necessary measure.  Ohio is facing a huge budget deficit, and many Ohio municipalities also are facing budget shortfalls.  A significant part of the state and local governmental budgets are devoted to public employees compensation and benefits.  Senate Bill 5 seems like a reasonable step to deal with those costs.  Public employees could still bargain about wages, hours, and working conditions, but not health care, pension benefits, or sick time.  Public employees also would not be able to strike.  The move should allow Ohio state and local governmental entities to bring public employee health care and pension benefit contributions in line with the prevailing approaches in the private sector, and the savings produced as a result will help to make up the budget shortfalls.

We shouldn’t kid ourselves, however.  Senate Bill 5 is not going to fix Ohio’s budget gap by itself.  Our legislators need to roll up their sleeve and continue to look carefully, and skeptically, at state programs, state departments, and state agencies and decide whether they truly are needed, and if so at what funding level.  What services are critical, and which provide non-essential services that we simply cannot afford any longer?  Public employees in Ohio should not be the only group that bears the brunt of necessary budget cuts.


Kasich Takes Charge

Today John Kasich took the oath of office as Ohio’s Governor.

His first order of business will be to work on the state budget and to develop proposals that will deal with a budget deficit estimated to reach as high as $8 billion.  He has pledged to do so without raising taxes, in part by restructuring government and making Ohio more “business-friendly.”   He will have two months to develop his budget proposals, and Ohio citizens and legislators will then have time to evaluate them before the budget must be passed.

Our new Governor faces large challenges — in developing a budget, and in other areas as well — and already the opposition is mobilizing.  For example, I received an email today soliciting opposition to Governor’s Kasich’s agenda and asking for a pledge to resist his initiatives.  How sad for our state!  Before the new Governor even has an opportunity to begin the difficult process of governing and to develop and explain his proposals to address the challenges facing the Buckeye State, his opponents are already lining up to do battle, come what may.  With that kind of reflexive reaction, is it any wonder that we have problems with gridlock in our political systems?  In view of the dire problems facing Ohio, can’t the two parties at least try to work together to come up with some consensus solutions?