Try to wrap your mind around this one while Issue 2 is about to head to the ballot box.
According to today’s Associated Press report by Julie Carr Smyth:
Ohio will pay cash to tens of thousands of state workers this month to make up for personal days they gave up over the past two years to help balance the state budget, The Associated Press has learned.
Each full-time employee is receiving the equivalent of four days’ wages plus four sick days in exchange for eight personal days they agreed not to accrue under a 2009 union contract. The money comes Aug. 26; the sick days were added in July.
For all the phony talk about how public union employees have “unstainable benefits,” there are certain political realities that show how ridiculously unfounded that is. Kasich’s budget was balanced with zero concessions from the state employee unions. He didn’t even approach them about seeking any concessions. His budget doesn’t even rely on Senate Bill 5 in being law. Seriously, think about that. John Kasich’s own budget is balanced without the need of Senate Bill 5. In fact, not only is it balanced without concessions or SB 5, it specifically included this provision to repay the public employee unions some of what they were willing to concede during the Strickland Administration during the Great Recession.
The contract was touted at the time by both unions and then-Gov. Ted Strickland’s administration for the concessions it contained in the midst of the national recession, including the personal day accrual cuts, 10 forced furlough days, pay freeze and an increased share of health care costs for workers. The state calculates that the contract has saved it about $400 million during the past two years.
It also included provisions for the personal-day reimbursements, though they were not emphasized at the time.
So, this is technically a reimbursement envisioned by the Strickland Administration, so how does the Kasich Administration feel about having to cut these checks to union employees? Actually, pretty darn good.
The Kasich administration has taken on public employee unions in an overhaul of collective bargaining laws, but the administration was not prepared to criticize the reimbursement, said Department of Administrative Services communications director Peiter Wykoff.
“I’m not really here to defend the previous administration. However, I must say the state employees didn’t get that much in this last contract,” he said. “This is one little thing that they’re getting back. They didn’t get raises, they gave up personal leave for two years, they paid more for health care. It’s not like the previous administration gave that much to the employees. These aren’t bonuses.”
And that’s the other political reality that is often ignored. The public employee unions were furious with Strickland over these concessions. With many of the rank-and-file suggesting that they’d stay home in November 2010. When you compare CNN’s 2006 exit polling to CNN’s 2010 exit polling, you’ll see that union households made 2% less of the electorate in 2010 (although it was the drop out of Strickland’s support of non-union households that really swung), so many very well did so. Also, Kasich did better with union households in 2010 than Ken Blackwell did in 2006, too. Strickland lost 5-points from 2006 to 2010 in his perforamance among union households.
I’m pretty sure in hindsight, there are some rank and file public employee union members who regret that choice.
But that’s not my real point. My real point is that Kasich’s own budget, yet again, is the strongest piece of evidence at how unnecessary SB 5. Unsustainable pensions? Not really. Nobody but extreme partisan ideologues with an anti-union ax to grind are saying it, and they can’t back it up. The problem with the State’s pensions are two-fold: 1) the losses in investments caused by the Great Recession; and 2) the demographic phenomenom that is the Baby Boomer generation entering into retirement. But nobody honestly believes that these challenges cannot be overcome with tweaking on benefits and perhaps employee contributions. None of the State pensions are in a downward cycle towards insolvency that SB 5 can only fix. In fact, SB 5 really would have little to any favorable impact on the State pensions’ at all. Pension pickups weren’t authorized under most of the State pensions, and regardless, that benefit only goes to who pays into the pension and therefore, has no impact on the fund’s solvency.
SB 5 is something conservatives like Governor Kasich, Speaker Batchelder, the Columbus Dispatch, the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s Kevin O’Brien, and the Buckeye Institutes wants, but it’s not something Ohio needs.
Kasich self-professed business mentor is former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld who made a reported $22 million in 2007, a year before Lehman would ultimately collapse as a house of cards that created a domino effect of recessionary pain throughout the entire recession. Compared that to a disabled police officer or a retired prison guard who simply wants to collect the pension he paid into during his careeer and tell me: who’s compensation is really unstainable?