SB 5 makes fair adjustments to save jobs

From the beginning of the 129th General Assembly, our goal in state government was to foster an economic environment in the State of Ohio conducive to job creation and to put in place ways that would help us climb out of our $8 billion deficit. I feel that we have made many positive steps toward achieving these goals, but I know that our job is not complete. One piece of legislation that would greatly benefit our state’s economy and the taxpayers that support it is Senate Bill 5, which will be on the ballot this November.

Senate Bill 5 introduces changes that our state needs in order to move forward through these challenging economic times. Our current collective bargaining system has gone mostly unchanged since its implementation in 1983. During that time, union demands have continued to expand, reaching the point where taxpayers simply can no longer sustain it.

While SB 5 aims to bring much-needed relief to private sector taxpayers, it will also have lasting positive effects in the public sector. In recent years, local governments and school districts have had no choice but to lay off valuable workers – firefighters, police officers, teachers – because they no longer have room in their budgets to support the generous benefits and pensions that government unions have bargained for. With increased strain being placed on taxpayers, we have unfortunately seen a lot of people leave Ohio for other, more tax-friendly states. A clear indication of this is the fact that Ohio is losing two representatives in Congress.

Fewer citizens living in the state leads to less revenue for local governments. It would be unfair to exclude public employees from this example. They also pay taxes that help fund our cities, our state and our economy in general. For this reason, it is critical that we keep public employees working. Reasonable changes to collective bargaining, healthcare and pension contributions will help maintain strong numbers in our public workforce.

One thing that cannot be overlooked in this debate is the effect that the current system has on our children. Our teachers do a great job of educating the future leaders of our state and nation. But recently, schools have been forced to lay off good teachers and eliminate important extracurricular programs in order to balance their budgets. Furthermore, schools have had to rely more heavily on passing levies – asking taxpayers throughout the district to give more each time.

As families deal with layoffs, wage freezes and tighter budgets, passing these levies has become increasingly difficult. Laying off teachers – many of whom have kids of their own – only makes the situation worse.

Therefore, one thing about Senate Bill 5 that must be taken into consideration, and one thing that has unfortunately been mostly overlooked, is the positive impact it will have on public employees. The goal is not to reduce the size of our public workforce, but rather to sustain it and make it stronger. Before this can happen, however, we must give local governments and school districts greater flexibility over their budgets, so they can afford to hold onto more of their valuable employees.

Nan Baker

State Representative 16th Ohio House District

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Volume 3, Issue 21, Posted 4:57 PM, 10.18.2011