It is better to remain silent and suffer that people might think you a fool than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Senate President Niehaus should really just stop talking because he keeps digging a deeper and deeper hole on the retroactive raises and how it reflects why Issue 2 is just bad policy.  Niehaus’ latest spin in today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer is that these raises actually are entirely consistent with the values embodied in Issue 2.  So that I can’t be accused of misrepresenting him, here’s what the Plain Dealer reported Niehaus said:

Niehaus said the raises are consistent with the spirit of SB 5, which replaces automatic pay increases based on time served with raises based on performance.

“These are all performance-based increases. So it’s consistent,” he said. “There is nothing in Senate Bill 5 that prevents anyone from getting raises.”

In saying that, Niehaus confirmed what critics of “merit pay” have been saying all year.  The Senate doesn’t have any written “merit pay” policy.  Anyone reviewing the raises would be hard pressed to articulate a policy that explains them.  There seems to be little rhyme or reason for who got a 4% raise versus 33%.  Except that by and large, the biggest raises went to mostly Republican staffers.  (Yes, it appears that after our post hit the news, the Democratic staffers got approved raises, too.  We couldn’t report the Democratic raises because unlike the Republican raises, the Democratic ones weren’t reflected in the most recent payroll records we examined, so we had no way of knowing about them until the Republican Senate caucus felt the need to push back.)

But there is one commonality that explains these raises, they all went to the top staffers who were the most politically connected to the leadership of their respective partisan caucus (i.e.- the “management.”)  Did the Democratic chief-of-staff and their Communicator Director deserve a raise?  In my opinion, absolutely.  Despite having only 10 of 33 members in the body, the Democratic Senate caucus has been unbelieveably more effective this year in executing a communication strategy that demonstrates an unified Democratic message on major policy issues in the day.  They have driven coverage on the budget, SB 5, and other legislative initiatives.  And if their Republican counterparts are getting “merit” raises for their achievement of handling the difficult task of pass legislation when your party holds 23 of the 33 seats in the body.  The Senate Democrats believe there should be a rising tide for all boats; they don’t believe in just giving raises at the top and defending it as merit pay, as Niehaus does.

The Senate Democratic Caucus didn’t support the Kasich budget or SB 5.  And they fought like hell on both.  Everyone seems to forget that when SB 5 was introduced, everyone said it was introduced their because of the sizeable majority in that body as opposed to the House would give the bill momentum and assured quick passage.  Instead, SB 5 almost didn’t make it out of the Senate, and it took the Senate majority caucus to remove members of a key committee to make that happen.  The Senate Democratic Caucus believes that teachers, firefighters, and police officers and all of Ohio’s working class and middle class deserve a raise, but they don’t get to set the policy of the Senate or the State unless they are put in the majority.  So, they took what raises they could get approved by the Republican majority leadership.

As such, these raises are more of a political problem for the Republicans because if this is “merit pay,” then it reeks of cronyism.  Is Niehaus really suggesting that the legislative aides (holla L.A.s!) of the members of the committees that had to deal with SB 5 and the budget don’t merit a raise after all the long hours of hearings, meetings, etc. they undertook so far this year already? Please.

If this is what merit pay will look like, then it’s a pretty indefensible system that seem ripe for abuse and favoritism.  Thanks for proving us right, Senate President Niehaus!

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