Ohio; Community Organizing-Platinum Edition

By Art Goodrich
I find it hard to believe that no one in the fire blogosphere picked up this post-election story and especially since Ohio Governor John Kasich’s very political existence may have hinged upon its defeat.

But, $30 million union dollars later, “Issue 2”; otherwise known as SB 5 was repealed by the voters of Ohio and Governor Kasich was left wondering “why”.

From my perspective, it was the classic political cage match.

The union brought its street fighting style and the conservatives who thought that they were going to hold collective bargaining to the days before John L. Lewis came to the fight believing that there would be “rules”. Consequently, it was no contest.

This story in Ohio had dominated the news media from sea to shining sea since early April with so much media muscle that you had to wonder what Kasich had up his sleeve to beat back this well-organized union effort. If he had a plan, he wasn’t telling anyone.

And now, it has many circles believing that this was the litmus test for Obama’s re-election, even though on the same day that Ohio was voting to protect collective bargaining, they were voting down ObamaCare AND most of the tax increases for many of the school districts in Ohio. Huh?

Both sides claimed victories. However; I think both sides were too full of themselves to see the unintended consequences of Election Night’s results and here’s why:

First; the union thinks that this victory is the end all for any effort to limit their right to represent their members in the public sector, when all that it has done is given the state an opportunity to write another bill that will be more palatable for Ohio voters to chew on. And in the meantime, watch how many jobs are slashed in order to balance the state budget.

In fact; when I saw the results of the vote, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh-oh; now there will be big layoffs”. A blogger in Ohio seems to agree. See the link:

http://thirdbasepolitics.blogspot.com/2011/11/issue-2-defeated.html

I have to wonder if Governor Kasich thought anyone in Ohio with a computer would visit the website that answered the many questions surrounding SB 5. I went to the site and took a tour and I must say that it was very thorough, but with trust in government at an all-time low, how many were going to believe those answers. Check out the SB 5 FAQ here:

http://www.aproundtable.org/pdfs/faqonOH_SB5.pdf

Does Ohio have a balanced budget law?

From what I understand, they don’t have a balanced budget requirement per se, but if you look at their state constitution, it would indicate that the legislators cannot spend more money than they take in during a fiscal year. According to the state website, there are provisions that speak to the balanced budget issue. I quote the following from the state guidebook:

Balanced Budget Requirements
Although no one statute or section of the Ohio
Constitution explicitly states that Ohio must keep its
budget in balance, there are several provisions that,
when construed together, make such a requirement
clear. The directives in Revised Code sections
126.05 and 126.07 along with Article II, Section
22, Article VIII, Sections 1 through 3, and Article
XII, Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution ensure that
Ohio keeps its budget balanced by:
• limiting the state’s ability to incur debt;
• requiring the General Assembly to provide
for raising revenue sufficient to defray state
expenses each year;
• permitting money in the state treasury to be
spent only pursuant to an appropriation made
by law;
• limiting the duration of appropriations to two
years;
• requiring the Governor to curtail spending in
the event of insufficient revenue.
If appropriations bills that set forth a balanced
budget cannot be enacted and approved by the
Governor in time to become effective on or shortly
after July 1 of the new fiscal biennium, an “interim”
appropriations bill is necessary to provide for
continued funding on an emergency basis. Usually,
“interim” appropriations bills provide funding for a
month, but on occasion they have been enacted for
shorter or longer periods.


The entire guidebook can be viewed here: 

http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/guidebook/chapter8.pdf

I have also included Ohio state employee pension definitions here: 

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/145.01

Now; because I am a full service blogger, I have crunched some numbers for you. I have used the state of South Carolina as a comparison to Ohio, because, quite frankly, South Carolina is a right-to-work state and unions often cite right-to-work states as “problematic”. I am in no way endorsing one over the other; at least, not this time!

It was widely reported that the unions poured $30 million into their efforts to beat back SB 5. Given that there are 358,276 state union employees in Ohio, that figures out to $83,735 per employee that was spent to preserve their collective bargaining rights. That’s breath-taking!

State employees in Ohio who are considered full time employees earn $40,603 on the average and part-time employees average $9861 per year and that is NET pay; not gross pay. South Carolina full time employees, on the average, earn $34,203 per year and part-time employees earn $9925 per year. In both states, it was noted that over 54 percent of the public employees were in education.

With regards to pensions and benefits, Ohio state employees contributes 10 percent pre-tax per pay period to their pension and the state kicks in 14 percent for the state employees. They also get 10 paid holidays and can choose from five medical plans for medical care. Cost is $26.74 - $30.50 per month for individuals and $78.91 - $89.25 per month for families. The state pays the remainder of the premium in all cases. Dental coverage is free to the employee and dependents. The state pays the full cost of the dental coverage. Vision care is also free. Life insurance is equal to a year’s salary. That is; if the employee earns $40,000 a year, then their life insurance policy is worth $40,000.

In South Carolina, state employees contribute 6.5 percent into their retirement fund and the state kicks in 9.24 percent. They have the choice of putting it into a 401K plan or the South Carolina Deferred plan. They get 12 paid holidays and can choose from 3 medical plans for medical care. Each plan costs the state $260 per individual. Employees pay $93.46 per month for the standard plan or $185.56 verses $251 per month to either of two HMO plans. However; premiums are due to go up. Dental coverage is free and the state pays $11.71 per employee per month in premiums. Vision care is $7.76 per month for employees choosing to take it. Life insurance is $3000 if the employee is under age 70 and $1500 for those over age 70. Employees also qualify for annual and sick leave that they can accrue up to 180 days, if they have been employed for at least one year.

And speaking of “sick” leave; I offer you this: sick time “cash outs”. A small piece taken from the article states: In Ohio, 2,164 state retirees eligible to cash out sick time at a 55 percent rate received an average of $5,646 in the 2011 fiscal year. More than 4,300 departing Florida employees who retired or otherwise left state service last fiscal year averaged about $3,000 in sick-time payments. At least five received 10 times that.
 

Read the entire article here:  
http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=569521

On an annual basis, state legislators in Ohio earn approximately $19,600 in gross retirement benefits-about the same as a teacher or police officer. In South Carolina, state legislator earn $10,400 in gross retirement benefits annually.

So that you can see the data that I have quoted for yourselves, I have included the links:

Ohio state employees’ salaries listed:
http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Ohio_state_government_salary

South Carolina state employees’ salaries listed:
http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/South_Carolina_state_government_salary

Also, at the same time that population has grown less than 2 percent in Ohio, it has risen in South Carolina by 15 percent in the past ten years. I’m just sayin’…

AND to be fair; since Illinois leads the nation in unfunded pension obligations of at least $85 billion, we are seeing more news outlets pressing our state government to do something. However; in most of the country where the entitlement programs are the “third rail”, hot button issues; here in Illinois, it’s messing with the unions or Mike Madigan that could be your political hemlock.

See opinion piece here: 

http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=569546

So; was the defeat of SB 5 in Ohio the result of a very unpopular Governor John Kasich as Brent Larkin of Cleveland.com would suggest in his article?

Or is this just another example of how powerful the Obama community organizing efforts can be, because, let’s face it; the Obama Administration was backing the union’s efforts to defeat SB 5?

And with that said, then why was Obama willing to lose on healthcare in Ohio?

With this victory, will we see the many fire departments like Chillicothe, Columbus and Cleveland that have already been cut restored or will we see more departments being downsized as the various governments struggle with a constituency who wants the services with no increase in taxes?

As an example; voters were upset that public employees get healthcare for little or nothing, but yet; THEY VOTED DOWN OBAMACARE!

Voters can definitely be fickle!

Stay tuned. Ohio was only the beginning and not the end.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.