Plunderbund research reveals that GOP Senate President Tom Niehaus, leader of the brain trust behind a bill to strip benefits from rank and file public employees, and champion of a budget that makes painful cuts to nearly every program in the state, has now committed the ultimate act of hypocrisy.

Let’s remember, the Senate GOP is responsible for passing a state budget that steals hundreds of millions of dollars from local governments, redirecting it to the state’s piggybank – a move that forced mayors, county commissioners and township trustees statewide to decide between cutting vital services like police and fire, or raising taxes. It was also the Senate GOP that authored SB5, a “tool”, they claimed, that would help local leaders cope with these budget cuts by paying out less in wages and benefits.

So, naturally, President Niehaus and his caucus are leading by example, cutting costs and saving taxpayer dollars as they have encouraged local leaders to do, right?

Not exactly. In 2009, when tax collections slipped and every member of the Strickland administration, including the Governor, gave up ten days of pay – a 4% cut – the GOP-controlled Senate opted to preserve their full pay. And in 2009 — and again in 2011 — Senate leadership punted instead of passing legislation to cut the pay of future legislators by a modest 5%.

Now, in the most recent move, quietly, effective with the first paycheck of the new fiscal year, Niehaus has followed the lead of the Governor by rewarding his top staff with enormous taxpayer-funded pay increases. His Chief of Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff, Finance Director and Senate Clerk all received a $15,000 yearly pay increase. The Deputy Finance Directory received a whopping $23,005 increase.

Here are their new salaries:

Senate Staff Member Title New Estimated Yearly Salary
Matt Schuler Chief of Staff $138,507
Elizabeth Connolly Deputy Chief of Staff $116,126
Brian Perera Finance Director $115,232
Vincent Keera** Senate Clerk $116,230
Matt Whatley Deputy Dir of Finance $85,010

( Note: Our salary analysis was performed by comparing bi-weekly state employee payroll numbers from 4/23/2011 against the numbers for 7/30/2011. )

Furthermore, the increases were retroactive, such that on July 16, these same staffers each took home checks containing 26 weeks of back pay at the higher rate, as if their raises had been in place since January. Whatley received a check for $10,123.20. Perera got $11,930.40, Connolly $11,964.80. And Schuler took home $12,825.61 for a single 2-week pay period.

So, after passing SB5 which eliminates automatic 3% pay increases for state workers, the Senate handed their own staff raises ranging from 12 to 37%.

Senators’ pay is defined by Ohio law, so they are unable to give themselves raises without legislation, or we suspect they would have. But nothing stops them from paying their staff more, even in the face of enormous budget cuts across state and local government.

One last irony to note. While Republicans champion “merit pay” for other public workers, apparently it’s not good enough for them. Raises were given exclusively to Republican staffers; not a single member of the minority caucus staff received an increase. Sounds like politics, not merit, was behind the move.

** We missed Vincent Keera in the original post.

Based on some questions in the comments, and information coming from other news sources, I thought it was important that we show our work. To be clear, we did our comparison based on two bi-weekly pay periods: 4/23/2011 and 7/30/2011. And we verified the new salary against the 8/13/2011 pay period as well.

Based on that data, the first four people listed above received $576.8 more per pay period, which totals to $14,996.80 per year (multiplied by 26 pay periods).

The fifth person went from $2,384.80 per biweekly pay period to $3,269.60 – which calculates to a raise of 884.8 per pay period or $23,004.80 per year.

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