Sunday, October 16, 2011

Big Government's Next Battlefield - Ohio's Referendum On Public Employee Unions

There's a little watched off year election I'd recommend you keep your eye on taking place in the Buckeye State.

It concerns an attempt to repeal Senate Bill 5, the signature legislative achievement of Governor John Kasich that curbs, for the first time, collective bargaining leverage for the public employee unions.

As in many other states, particularly those run for years by Democrats, Ohio has a severe budget crisis brought on by the circle jerk relationship between the Public employee unions and the Democrats in Columbus.

The game's pretty simple, has taken place in a great many states and amounts to an ingenious scam to fund and elect the Democrats at public expense. It starts when the Democrats push through laws giving public employee unions massive collective bargaining rights and closed shops. In turn, the unions provide manpower at election time and campaign cash taken directly from the salaries of all employees regardless of party and paid for by all taxpayers regardless of their political leanings. The Democrats get back into office ( with perhaps a bigger majority) and the unions find themselves 'negotiating' for raises and increased benefits with the exact politicians they just helped elect, and a nice chunk of the raises end up being kicked back again to the Democrats.

In some Blue States like California, the public employee unions enjoy legislatively mandated pensions that must pay retirees at a certain percentage of their final salary no matter how well the state's pension fund does. California's public employee unions responded to this largesse by investing their pension funds in the riskiest derivatives, figuring that if things worked out well their war chests would swell and give them increased leverage for bargaining with politicians for increased benefits and pay through campaign contributions. If things didn't go so well, the benefits still had to be paid by state law.

As a result of this roulette whirl on the taxpayer's dime, California's unfunded pension liabilities are close to a trillion dollars and are a major factor in effectively bankrupting what used to be the richest state in the union.

In Ohio, Governor Kasich and a Republican dominated legislature made the decision to stave off insolvency by passing Senate Bill 5. It limits public employee union's collective bargaining rights on health coverage costs, pensions and wages and gives city councils and school boards the right to impose a 'take it or leave it' final contract offer if management and the union do not reach a settlement. It also requires government workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance costs and pay 10 percent of their salaries toward their pensions... still a far better deal than most private sector employees if they're lucky enough to have a job with benefits.

The public employee unions and Ohio Democrats jumped on this after the measure was passed in March and collected collected 1.3 million signatures to place the repeal vote on the Nov. 8 ballot. The national Democratic Party is now involved, and the anti-Senate Bill 5 forces, under the name We Are Ohio have spent an estimated $5 million already. At present the repeal is ahead in the polls, although the lead has been dropping sharply as anti-repeal forces whose umbrella organization is Building a Better Ohio have begin fighting back to block repeal of the law.

This is a major battle that's going to help decide not only the 2012 presidential election but the bigger question of whether America continues to go broke as it succumbs to the smothering morass of Big Government or returns to its traditional values.

If repeal fails, other states are likely going to follow the lead of Ohio and Wisconsin to curb the public employee unions and it will be a good indication that President Obama can pretty much kiss Ohio's 18 electoral votes bye bye.

If repeal wins, it will be the best political news the president has had in a long time.

Some clarity...this isn't at all about management vs. labor or union rights, but about ending a dysfunctional and increasingly dangerous scheme to fund the Democratic Party at public expense that simply isn't sustainable any more.

It's that simple.

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1 comment:

Old School said...

Ah, the nanny state. You had best pray you avoid its clutches.