I'm going to be writing a series of blog posts over the next few days, addressing the specific issues related to Ohio Issue 2/SB 1. For today, I'd like to share a Letter to the Editor I sent to the Daily Record (Wooster) today. I had to heavily edit to keep it from becoming a manifesto with a length rivaling War and Peace. I plan to address some of these issues with more specificity in the coming days.
Those of us who are voting YES on Issue 2 have been accused of everything from wanting to destroy the middle class to putting the lives of our firefighters in danger.
The truth is, most of us are just concerned citizens who see the budget crisis on our doorstep and realize that reforms are needed. While many public employees already pay 15% of their health care and 10% of their pensions—some even more— many do not. The average city workers in Ohio pay 9% for their health care, compared to 23% for the private sector. Akron’s teachers and city workers pay nothing toward their own health care. A YES on Issue 2 would require public employees to pay 15%, still well below the state average for the private sector. (And they’ll still be able to bargain for safety equipment, wages, terms, and conditions.)
In Columbus, the city pays both the employer (taxpayer) and the employee portion of the pension for city employees—they don’t contribute a dime toward their own pensions, a practice called pension pickups. Pension pickups cost Columbus $36 million in 2011. A YES on Issue 2 would stop the practice of taxpayers footing the bill for the public employees’ portion of the pension contribution.
Obviously, these perks are completely out of line with the private sector. We must remember that all Ohio taxpayers pay for these gold-plated benefit plans through our state tax dollars, which are redistributed to municipalities and school districts across the state.
This isn’t personal—the hard truth is that these benefit packages are no longer sustainable. School districts and municipalities across the state are projecting huge deficits over the next five years. The Akron City Schools are projecting a $142 million deficit by 2015, when personnel costs will consume 93% of the district’s budget. (Find your district’s projections here.) This will certainly lead to massive teacher layoffs and this scenario will be repeated in school districts, cities, and counties across the state.
Vote YES on Issue 2 to save jobs and put us back on the road to balanced budgets in our school districts, our cities, our counties, and our small towns. If you need to know more, www.iVoters.com is a great non-partisan website for information on all three of Ohio's ballot issues.
[Part 2 - Safety Forces] [Part 3 - Teachers]