The second ad from We Are Ohio that largely focuses on our Senate staffer raises story:
The ad very carefully uses the phrase “exploits” a loophole. But what the ad omits is that the loophole they refer to is one that was not created by SB 5, and thus, will still exist if Issue 2 fails. For your convenience, here’s a copy of the relevant portion of SB 5 referenced in the bill (revising R.C. 124.14(B):
But as shown from this provision of SB 5, this loophole existed before SB 5 was law. FYI- R.C. 124.15 deals with step increases, which SB 5 eliminates and R.C. 124.152 details the State’s salary ranges. This loophole only applies to the issue of wages, nothing else in SB 5 (We Are Ohio accurately represented this fact in their ad.)
Under existing law, Senate President Niehaus was able to give retroactive raises to Senate staffers for both caucuses. Niehaus then tried to justify them by saying they were reflective of the “merit pay” provisions of SB 5. However, the Senate has no written merit pay policy and had never claimed that compensation was dictated on “merit pay.” Also, SB 5 continues the loophole such that its merit pay provisions, by law, do not apply to it. Niehaus was simply lying.
To the extent that this ad may lead a viewer to believe that this loophole was created by SB 5 or will be eliminated by its defeat, then that would be a misleading impression. However even then, that is a rather inconsequential tree in a much larger forest of political hypocrisy.
“Issue 2 simply asks our government employees to earn their paycheck, in part, based on performance and to pay at least 15 percent toward their health care coverage and 10 percent toward their guaranteed pension. These are reasonable reforms that will restore fairness between public and private sector workers, while respecting the ability of taxpayers to pay the bills.”—Building A Better Ohio spokesman Jason Mauk’s strongly worded press release in response to We Are Ohio’s second ad.
But what about the health insurance and pension contribution aspects of SB 5? Well, this ad doesn’t claim this loophole applies to it, as it only goes to pay. Legislators pay 15% of the cost towards their health insurance and pay 10% of the salaries to their state pensions, which is what SB 5 prescribes, as they have well before SB 5 was even introduced. But do you know why that is? Traditionally, the state’s budget has a provision in it that sets the contributions for such unclassified employees (legislators and their staff) to whatever the collective bargaining agreement for State employees set their contribution levels. And presently, State employee collective bargaining agreements set it to 15% and 10%. Public employee unions who represent state employees do not oppose Issue 2 because they are opposed to paying 15% of their health insurance premiums and 10% towards their pensions because that’s what they’ve already agreed to under existing labor law and through collective bargaining.
That’s why the Department of Administrative Services, using what they internally called an indefensible “analysis” of claimed “savings” for SB 5 still had to conclude the bill would not result in significant savings for the State, even when the bill at the time called for employees to pay at least 20% of their health insurance premiums. Anyone who claims that state public employee unions oppose Issue 2 because they oppose these limits is lying, plain and simple. In fact, some municipalities also already have these limits without Issue 2, which is why the Dispatch concluded that Issue 2’s savings at the local level under the 15% for health care to 10% for pensions would be negligible in most of the greater Columbus area.
Issue 2 is not about a battle over savings. It’s a battle to weaken collective bargaining Ohio to keep the party in power in power forever. Issue 2 is nothing more than campaign finance gerrymandering. That is why politicians like Niehaus can, as the Plain Dealer editorial board blasting his staff raises put it, appear to have a “blind spot.” Because Issue 2 isn’t about taxpayer money, it’s about campaign finance money.