COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday fired back in reaction to criticism from President Barack Obama of Ohio's new law restricting public employees' collective bargaining rights.
"Let's certainly not blame public employees for a financial crisis that they had nothing to do with, and let's not use this as an excuse to erode their bargaining rights," Mr. Obama told Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC during a White House interview.
“And so, whether it’s Wisconsin or what we’re seeing in Ohio, I strongly disapprove,’’ the President said.
When asked about the Democratic president’s comments during a bill-signing ceremony Wednesday, the Republican governor shot back with a deficit comparison.
“Here in Ohio, we have balanced our budget under this budget that we’ve presented, along with preserving the tax cut. The president of the United States has, I think, a $13 trillion debt. Why doesn’t he do his job?" Mr. Kasich asked.
"When he does his job and gets our budget balanced and starts to prepare a future for our children, then maybe he can have an opinion on what’s going on in Ohio," he said.
Ohio is about to take center stage in the national discourse over the collective bargaining rights of teachers, police, firefighters, clerks, and other public workers. A petition effort is under way to put Senate Bill 5 on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Among numerous other things, the law would prohibit all public employee strikes, limit what workers can talk about during negotiations, require employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibit local governments from picking up any portion of an employee's contribution toward his pension, and prohibit unions from automatically collecting "fair share" fees from workers in a bargaining unit that refuse to join the union.
The campaigns to either preserve or repeal the law this fall could prove as a test of Republican and Democratic organizations going into the 2012 election when Mr. Obama will again seek the help of battleground Ohio in his re-election bid.