Changing public opinion on an issue is not an easy task, especially when that issue has been politicized to the degree that Senate Bill 5 has. But I think much of the opposition that has gathered against the bill has been based on emotion and not on the reality of our current situation. Opposition groups are more than happy to foster this emotion and fear because it provides them an easy way to avoid discussing the many common-sense measures within SB 5 that will improve Ohio.

Ohio’s collective bargaining system has remained almost entirely unchanged since its inception in the early 1980s. In the 30 years since, government unions have successfully bargained local governments for greater benefits and more funding. This process has made government more expensive to operate and maintain, which has been passed down to citizens through tax increases.

Abiding by the demands of government unions can present challenges when the economy is good, but in a struggling economy—as we now find ourselves in—these demands can lead to immense fiscal strain on local governments and taxpayers.

There seems to be a disconnect between the people bargaining for more benefits and private citizens—the people actually funding the system. It is important for everyone to understand that, during the negotiating process, unions bargain for taxpayer money, which was earned in the private sector. The existence of government acting as a buffer zone between government unions and taxpayers makes the process even less transparent. Therefore, not only does the public not have a say in how this money is being spent, but many times it doesn’t even know when these negotiations are happening.

With the existence of a system like this, it becomes that much easier for unions to demand contract perks such as guaranteed step salary increases and nearly across-the-board coverage of healthcare benefits and pension contributions. In fact, the private sector, while paying an average of 31 percent toward its own healthcare coverage, also pays for more than 90 percent for public employees’ coverage.

Senate Bill 5 will help local governments throughout Ohio control their costs by restoring balance to the negotiating process. Some people view the argument about restoring balance between private and public sectors as targeting a select group of people, but in reality, this balance must be restored in order to save public sector jobs. The sluggishness of the economy has resulted in private sector workers losing their jobs and taking salary cuts, which leads to fewer taxes—less revenue—being collected by government.

Nonetheless, under the current collective bargaining law, unions still expect government to pay out the same, if not more, in benefits as it has before. This obviously places tight constraints on the budgets of local governments. The status quo is unsustainable and eventually, when the money runs out, will lead to job losses in the public sector.

That is why the reforms presented in Senate Bill 5 are critical. The Department of Administrative Services estimated that SB 5 will save Ohio about $190 million in fiscal year 2013, as well as an additional $1 billion for local governments. Simple changes to an outdated and unsustainable system can go a long way in restoring economic opportunity and providing relief to the overburdened taxpayers in our great state.


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