At the start of the new General Assembly in January, I came to Columbus with the intention to do the right thing regardless of its political impact, not to take the path of least resistance in concern to our state’s future. Over the past several months, the state legislature has had the rare opportunity to explore ideas that reinvent the way the State of Ohio does business.

One such opportunity has come with the passage of Senate Bill 5, legislation that updates the relationship between taxpayers, local government and public-sector unions. Senate Bill 5 not only acknowledges that our current state and local budgets are in crisis, but it also prepares us for possible budget shortfalls down the road by enacting lasting cost-saving improvements. It is a long-term solution to an increasingly burgeoning financial burden that has contributed to Ohio’s fiscal problems.

Collective bargaining law for government employees was enacted in 1983, and since that time, state and local union members have remained relatively untouched. While the average private-sector employee pays 23 percent toward their health care, public-sector employees on average pay a sliver of this cost. Senate Bill 5 brings the public-sector more in line with the private-sector in terms of privileges and expenses.

There is also disparity between public and private-sector salaries in Columbiana County. Based on current data as reported by the Buckeye Institute, average annual salaries are $28,880.00 for private industry employees, $32,880.00 for local public employees and $39,508.14 for state public employees—which doesn’t even take into account the luxury benefit plans that public employees receive. This unbalanced trend is no longer sustainable because we continue to hemorrhage families and entrepreneurs while our tax rates continue to rise.

Senate Bill 5 is simply a viable answer to this discrepancy that has put strain on Ohio’s taxpayers and our local governments. Therefore, what is most troubling to me is the misinformation that has been circling surrounding the actual provisions of Senate Bill 5. The legislation does not eliminate collective bargaining altogether; public employees may still bargain for hours, wages, and terms of employment. Furthermore, safety personnel are still permitted to bargain over safety equipment, and it does not mandate any salary cuts. In actuality, SB 5 will protect public workers from mass layoffs due to costly, inflexible contracts when employers lack other options for balancing their budgets.

Approximately 7 percent of Ohio’s workforce consists of public employees in unions. That amounts to about 360,000 individuals of Ohio’s population of more than 11.5 million. Local governments can no longer afford the unwieldy demands of public union bosses and their hard line contracts. The system has needed to be restructured for some time now. I believe that in protecting collective bargaining privileges and giving local governments more flexibility, Senate Bill 5 strikes a smart balance.

Given its controversy, it was not an easy decision to support Senate Bill 5, but I believe that the bill will have a positive impact on the vast majority of our county and Ohio as a whole. All Ohioans will benefit from this legislation because it will largely eliminate the disparity between the public and private sector and, more importantly, restore balance to the collective bargaining system.


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