The only time Ohioans have voted on one of Gov. John Kasich’s proposals, 61 percent said no to Senate Bill 5. Opponent Ed FitzGerald and others on the statewide Democratic ticket are setting out to remind voters of that battle.
Monday marked the third anniversary of Kasich signing into law the measure that gutted public employee collective bargaining rights, which was repealed in November 2011 after opponents gathered nearly a million signatures on a referendum petition.
FitzGerald and others on the Democratic ticket are commemorating the date by holding events across the state to remind Ohio voters of this "assault on middle-class families.”
“This is a governor who got elected under false pretenses,” FitzGerald said during a press conference in a Cleveland union hall, noting Kasich did not mention worker rights, women’s rights or cutting local government during the 2010 campaign.
While Kasich now tries to evade responsibility for the legislation, FitzGerald said both he and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson were informed of the plans for the proposal by Kasich himself shortly before taking office.
“He personally talked to me about Senate Bill 5 before it was even introduced,” FitzGerald said.
The response from Kasich campaign spokeswoman Connie Wehrkamp: “After years of mismanagement by a Democrat administration that led to more than 350,000 private sector jobs lost and an $8 billion budget shortfall, Governor Kasich's recently-introduced Mid-Biennium Review clearly shows that he remains focused on strengthening Ohio's economy by pursuing more reductions to the harmful income tax, making more improvements to K-12 and higher education, training Ohio's workers to fill in-demand jobs and managing the state's budget in a fiscally-responsible way because it has been these pro-jobs priorities and the governor's no-nonsense leadership that have already led to the creation of nearly 240,000 private sector jobs, improving Ohio from 48th to 5th in job creation since he took office, and will continue to move our state forward.”
Kasich said on Fox News earlier this month he has no plans to revisit Senate Bill 5. And he has repeatedly said controversial Right to Work legislation is “not on my agenda.”
Critics point out that’s the same phrase was used by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder before he reversed course and supported it.
Given an opportunity to set the record straight, Wehrkamp said, “The record is straight — that is his position.”
FitzGerald, as well as state Sen. Nina Turner, a Clevelander running for secretary of state, and Rep. John Patrick Carney, a Columbus resident seeking the auditor’s post, said that’s a sure sign Kasich and the GOP-dominated legislature will enact Right to Work once they win re-election.
“You can really tell a lot when a politician will not give a straight answer,” FitzGerald said.
Kasich’s vocal advocacy of Senate Bill 5 shows his sentiments about working people, FitzGerald said.
Randy Cole, a top Kasich policy adviser who has focused on pushing local government efficiencies, said he occasionally hears from a local official who wishes Senate Bill 5 had remained in place, but said labor/management issues are “down the list of what people raise as a concern.”
“I find in most instances, it’s just a matter of communication and negotiation,” he said. “ Labor and management are able to come together but there’s some other issue that might be the barrier to a shared service.”
About 1,200 local governments and schools have been involved in more than 200 shared-service initiatives over the last three years, Cole said. The economic downturn prompted some action, but Senate Bill 5, even in defeat, also gave the effort a boost, he said.
“Instead of it being us versus them in management and labor, it was what can we do together for our mutual benefit or for the taxpayers,” Cole said. “I think it provided a catalyst to get people focused on what they could do together.”
Counting what the state Controlling Board is expected to approve in mid-April, the state has approved about $15 million of the $55 million in available Local Government Innovation Funds, which encourages exploration of shared services.
When Kasich signed Senate Bill 5 less than three months after taking office he criticized its opponents by saying “I think many of them don't know what's in this bill.” He said voters would support the new law “when Ohioans find out that your average private worker pays 23 percent of their health-care costs and your average city worker pays 9 percent.”
The governor announced he would sign the bill in a campaign fundraising email in which he called the passage of Senate Bill 5 “a victory for Ohio taxpayers.” The email also asks for donations to “help us continue to return the balance of power.”
“There is a reason that the union bosses opposed these changes; because it strips power from the union leaders and returns it to the taxpayers and workers,” the Kasich email added. “But make no mistake; we are fighting to save Ohio and need your help.”
During repeated protests, at times more than 10,000 showed up at the Statehouse in opposition to the bill. Demonstrators could be heard during Kasich’s inaugural state of the state speech, and protestors were removed from the House chambers.
In the end, Ohioans voted to repeal Senate Bill 5 by 24 percentage points.
Three years later, the question is: Does that matter now?
By Darrel Rowland - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.
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