The Post, 10/18

When the 129th General Assembly was first called to session, Ohio was facing an $8 billion deficit. Small businesses were finding it difficult to meet a competitive bottom line, leaving workers to face the reality of being laid off or accepting pay cuts. This placed added budgetary constraints on families throughout the state. The same was true for school districts and local governments - the taxpayers they depend on to keep things running were having trouble keeping up. With our economy in such a rut, it was clear that it was time for the state government to reevaluate the way it managed its budget.

The best way to establish a strong, healthy economy is to keep people working. This is true not only in the private sector, but for public employees as well. They pay taxes, patronize businesses and support local school districts, just like their private sector neighbors. That basic understanding was the inspiration for Senate Bill 5 -- an effort to revive a once-thriving economy by preserving jobs, both private and public.

Unfortunately, the preservation of public sector jobs has not been a common reality in recent years. With built-in demands for healthcare and retirement benefits quickly exceeding what can be afforded, school districts and local governments have had to lay off workers in order to balance their books. This often results in young public workers losing their jobs, and, because they on average earn less than their more experienced coworkers, it has required a greater number of layoffs to reach the balanced budget.

Our solution updates the collective bargaining system for public employees in our state, which has been in place and gone mostly unchanged for almost 30 years. Above all else, it is an attempt to restore balance between all workers in Ohio. It requires public employees to pay at least 15 percent toward healthcare and 10 percent toward their pensions. Because public employee salaries are first earned in the private sector, their salaries and benefits must reflect what is earned by private workers.

The bill also introduces some reasonable changes to collective bargaining, in order to give schools and municipalities more flexibility in dealing with tightening budgets. Public employees, such as teachers and safety workers, will still be able to bargain for wages, hours and conditions of employment. The new process will be more transparent because it will give taxpayers -- the people footing the bill--a seat at the table and a voice for how their tax dollars are spent.

I know that my colleagues in the Ohio House -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- benefit from the work of our public servants. They are vital to keeping our streets safe and our schools running efficiently. But these changes are critical to fostering an economy that works for the best interest of all Ohio workers.

I supported Senate Bill 5 because it proposes honest and reasonable changes to the way governments manage taxpayer money, while at the same preserving the jobs of our valuable public employees.


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