Odds are, if you engage in a conversation about Ohio politics, it won’t take long before someone will bring up Senate Bill 5. It certainly has received a lot of attention throughout the state in newspapers and on television. While issues about our future, such as collective bargaining reform, performance-based pay and government unions, are discussed and debated within Ohio, some states have already made changes like those laid out in Senate Bill 5.

Indiana, New Jersey and Wisconsin are just a few examples of states that have responded to their fiscal hardships by reining in out-of-control spending and granting greater budget flexibility to their local governments. These measures have already yielded positive results.

This has especially been true in Wisconsin, which passed legislation very similar to SB 5 in the spring. Like in Ohio, government union leaders spent a great deal of time, energy and money distorting the truth about what was in the law. Democratic legislators even fled the state in order to postpone a vote on the bill.

But after the law was enacted, people began to see positive changes, such as in the Kaukauna public school district, which, prior to the signing of the law, faced a $400,000 budget deficit. Under the new law, teachers were asked to pay a little more toward their retirement pensions and healthcare benefits, but were also given more freedom when shopping for their health insurance because the school district was no longer beholden to the health packages demanded by the union. Now, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Kaukauna school district is running about a $1.5 million surplus.

Ohio is facing many of the same problems as other states, including Wisconsin. In response to the recession, private sector employees have accepted wage freezes or pay cuts, have paid higher health insurance premiums and even lost their jobs. In this time, however, government workers simply have not had to deal with these harsh realities to the same extent as the people paying their salaries. Their jobs are, for the most part, protected because they do not work in a business climate based on competition. Of course these jobs are important, but they must be funded responsibly and realistically, which means that in tough economic times, they must be asked to share in the sacrifice as well.

Senate Bill 5 will go a long way in solving the state’s problems. Without it, taxpayers would continue covering about 90 percent of healthcare costs for public employees, while at the same time paying upwards of 30 percent (and sometimes more) for their own individual health coverage.

Likewise, without SB 5, these same taxpayers will continue to have no say in the collective bargaining negotiating process. Unlike what many opponents of the bill have claimed, SB 5 does not eliminate collective bargaining—public employees are still able to negotiate for hours, wages and workplace conditions, such as safety. But all citizens deserve to know what happens during these negotiations because they are the ones paying for it. SB 5 provides greater transparency to this process, so people know how their tax money is being spent.

Not implementing the provisions included in Senate Bill 5 will result in an already financially strapped state, desperately in need of jobs, placing excessive burdens on its taxpayers, which is a big reason why Ohio fell into the mess it is currently in. However, by making some simple, common-sense changes to the way tax dollars are bargained for and spent, we will see positive changes to our school districts, our local governments and our state’s economy. Similar changes have worked elsewhere, and they can work in Ohio as well.


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