The rhetoric over Ohio Issue 2, the proposed repeal of the controversial Senate Bill 5, has escalated to nearly hysterical proportions. Campaigns on both sides of the issue are fueling the hysteria with sensational and oftentimes misleading information.
Hopefully, Ohio voters can sift through the information more rationally than it's being presented. If they do, then we are confident that Ohio's public employee collective bargaining reform will be upheld.
First and foremost is to understand that ''yes'' and ''no'' votes apply to the law, not the proposed repeal. So voters must decide that either yes, they are for Senate Bill 5, or no, they are against Senate Bill 5.
The law has many important benefits, the most significant of which is it goes a long way toward restoring the middle class taxpayers' control of their government with several empowering reforms. That control had been lost at the negotiating table where nobody represented local taxpayers.
A perfect example is Niles Board of Education candidate Christopher Doutt. Doutt was asked, if elected, would he represent Niles taxpayers or school district employees. After a lengthy pause, Doutt said, ''The community has to pay to serve the children.''
To prevent elected officials in Doutt's mold, and that is most since they are put into office with support from and allegiance to union members in their jurisdictions, SB5 implements reasonable protection against making taxpayers ''pay,'' as Doutt puts it, an unfair proportion. For example, it would require public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, a lot less than the average private sector worker that pays 31 percent. This does not impact state employees, who already pay 15 percent, but would bring tremendous relief to taxpayers in many Trumbull County communities where employees pay zero.
To understand why this level of fairness needs written into law, simply look at how contracts have changed this year. Even though the law is on hold pending Issue 2, many local unions such as Youngstown State University, Howland Local Schools and other government employees have trended toward higher shares of health care. Before SB5, this level of cooperation between unions and taxpayers was rare.
Another common sense change is the law requires government workers to pay at least 10 percent of their salaries toward their pensions while continuing to have the taxpayers contribute far more than that, up to 24.5 percent for some. In the private sector, the average worker does not have a pension and receives far smaller contributions from employers toward retirement plans (4 percent on average) and Social Security (6.25 percent).
Despite campaign ads to the contrary, SB5 does not address public employee wages except it eliminates the automatic longevity increases, nor does it address what government workers receive in retirement. The law does encourage merit raises similar to what President Obama proposed for teachers in 2009.
No one denies the value of police officers, firefighters and teachers in any community. But in today's world there is a limit as to what a community can afford, and someone has to have the courage to stand up for that limit. There are many other government jobs, meanwhile, with private sector counterparts - secretaries, mechanics, clerks, data entry, custodians, groundskeepers, garbage collectors, etc. - in which the public workers enjoy disproportionately higher and better wages and perks.
Local governments already spend too much of their budgets, in some cases more than 80 percent, on salaries and benefits. That doesn't leave enough money to buy the tools workers need to do their jobs. Liberty Township, for example, has six snow plows, but shrunk its work force to five drivers. The amount of money Liberty taxpayers spend on salaries and benefits has not decreased.
The size and cost of Ohio's local governments is unsustainable. Ohio's middle class taxpayers need relief. They need a yes vote on Issue 2.