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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2011

State GOP charged with 'hypocrisy'

Group lashes out over pay, Issue 2


COLUMBUS -- A liberal think tank yesterday accused Gov. John Kasich's administration and Republican lawmakers of "gross hypocrisy'' in accepting and awarding pay hikes and perks while supporting a law that restricts the negotiating power of the average public worker.

"The politicians who support Senate Bill 5, Issue 2, obviously do not embarrass easily," said Dale Butland, spokesman for Innovation Ohio, a Columbus-based think tank manned, in part, by supporters of former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

"They are shameless," Mr. Butland said of Mr. Kasich and GOP legislators. "They're all for pay and benefits cuts as long as those cuts apply to police, firefighters, and teachers, but not to themselves. They're against [pension] double-dipping, unless they themselves are double-dippers. They believe paid sick and leave days should be limited, as long as they are free to miss work whenever they want and still get paid."

Building on a theme from a recent ad aired by those seeking to overturn Senate Bill 5 at the polls on Nov. 8, the group pointed to Mr. Kasich's salary and those of many of his aides that are higher -- in some cases much higher -- than their equivalents in the last administration. They also pointed to the base annual salary of $60,584 for state representatives and senators augmented by leadership and committee stipends for what Innovation Ohio characterized as part-time jobs.

Earlier this year, a provision that would have cut legislative pay by 5 percent was dropped from the state budget just before final passage.

Among other things, Senate Bill 5 would prohibit strikes by public employees, limit what they can discuss in contract negotiations, require them to pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums, bar local governments from paying any portion of a worker's share of his pension contributions, and substitute a performance pay system for automatic pay hikes based on longevity.

"The voters have already graded the performance of the governor," Mr. Butland said. "If you look at all the opinion polls, I can certainly understand why the governor would not want his pay determined by what the voters think of his performance, because he'd have a hard time eating."

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the news conference was "incoherent babbling from Strickland's former staff. …Our office is run with fewer people for less money and doing more things."

Building a Better Ohio, the mostly business and GOP-backed committee seeking to keep Senate Bill 5, said that the true "hypocrisy" is those government workers who don't pay as much toward their health care and pensions as private-sector workers.

Spokesman Jason Mauk said, "The list of hypocrisies between government union workers and everyone else is endless, and a recent independent report shows they get 43 percent better pay, benefits, and job security on average than anyone in the private sector."

The Ohio Business Roundtable, which soon afterward endorsed Senate Bill 5, funded the study he cited.

The effort to save the law also received a local boost yesterday when The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and Toledo Area Small Business Association signed on.

"The passage … would give local government elected officials and management the flexibility required to more effectively and efficiently manage their workplaces on behalf of Ohio's taxpayers," says a statement from the chamber's board of directors.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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