The Post, 11/2
As a long-time public servant, I have a real appreciation for good, much-needed legislation. The fact of the matter is that the issues facing Ohio are not simple. If they were, we would easily find immediate solutions. But the severity of the economic and financial situation facing our state requires action that will make us more competitive and help us to create long-term, stable jobs.
In regard to Senate Bill 5 - a bill that reforms the relationship among public sector unions, employers, and the taxpayers who provide the money to pay public employees - I am sure I have heard nearly every argument for and against this legislation. Both the supporters and opponents of the bill accuse one another of using rhetoric with distortions. But in the end, it's not the words that matter; it's the solution to a problem that matters.
Perhaps the reason why the debate about Senate Bill 5 has been so heated is because, no matter how much we try to avoid it, the problems we are seeking to address appeal to our emotions, and we empathize with those facing layoffs or having to sacrifice more during tough times. Although we may be on different sides of this issue, ultimately we have the same goal in mind - a healthy balance that is fair for everyone, public and private sector alike.
What's also worth noting is the argument that is not heard. Through all of the meetings, testimony, protests, and town halls, very few have put forth the view that we do not face any problem, and very few have ignored the disparities that exist.
The problem that Senate Bill 5 addresses is a very real problem. Our fellow Ohioans who work in the public sector are in a bind. They want to continue believing that their government unions are representing their best interests, while across the state, local governments cannot afford to keep them hired while paying for the expensive array of benefits that are demanded.
They are being laid off by the hundreds. Police officers and firefighters--from Cincinnati to Wilmington, from Columbus to Toledo and Cleveland. Teachers in every corner of the state, but most especially in Cleveland, Dayton and Pickerington. Rather than face problems that are very real, five Teachers of the Year were even left jobless in 2011, because they were subjected to the "last in, first out" provisions. This means they were simply let go because they were the most recent hires of the school district.
It's as though some opponents of the bill would rather see streets go unpaved, watch children struggle for transportation to school, and leave school kids with few extracurricular activities to take part in at the end of the day. This is what happened just recently when Cleveland Public Schools announced that they will be eliminating preschool, spring sports and busing for high school students in order to cut $13 million from their budget. This likely can be avoided with Senate Bill 5 enacted.
We cannot stand for this. Bringing the public and private sectors in line with one another certainly requires some sacrifice, but is the effort today not worth having a financially sustainable and prosperous future?
Senate Bill 5 is more than a bill, and it is more than the answer to a math problem. It's a clear solution to how we can move forward and spare more Ohioans from the hurt of unemployment and a higher tax burden in a struggling economy. I love Ohio and our public servants. I hate to see Ohio at a crossroads such as this. We have a choice in how we are going to right this ship.
If we do not fix the problem now, when will we?