Kasich Ends World

Did you feel a rumbling last Thursday? The earth shook as Ohio’s budget – spending cuts! lower taxes! – was signed into law.

Earth, as seen from Policy Matters Ohio HQ

On the bright side, the Kasich budget’s disastrous final passage gave Ohio leftists an opportunity to talk about what they hate most: tax cuts. Unlike The Columbus Dispatch, where political bias varies by writer, topic, and day of the week, The New York Times gave predictable support to big-government advocates:

Mr. Kasich said at the news conference that the budget restored fiscal responsibility to Ohio by closing an $8 billion budget gap. But his opponents argue that it accomplished that through deep cuts in spending on schools and local governments, which will be hard pressed to make up the difference. It also repeals the estate tax in 2013, which applies to the most affluent Ohioans and is another important revenue source for local governments.

Forget for a second how much a free citizen ought to despise “the most affluent,” and remember what the estate tax is. Dare to make more money than Progressives think your loved ones deserve, and the government takes a portion of your wealth when you die – even if you paid taxes on wages and paid taxes again when those wages earned you investment income. This sounds bad; is there no one brave enough to defend triple-taxation in the interest of more government spending?!

“There are clear winners and losers in this budget,” said Wendy Patton, senior associate at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal economic research group in Columbus. “Wealthy families and businesses benefit. School kids and communities don’t.”

Policy Matters Ohio, reliable champions of class warfare, released a study in June about why death taxes on the rich are so important. Synopsis: leftists know best how Ohioans’ money should be spent.

The Times also quoted Senator Seitz, one of several Ohio GOP figures who often votes with the Evil Conservative block but rarely misses a chance to undermine conservative policies:

“It’s easy to spend other people’s money, and that is essentially what this budget does,” he said. “Local governments will likely be in a position to ask voters for additional resources. It’s pay me now or pay me later.”

Actually it’s “pay the state so Columbus bean-counters can shovel money to local governments as they see fit, or pay your local government as local voters see fit.” Plus, what government budget in the history of government hasn’t spent other people’s money?

Seitz, like self-proclaimed moderate Republicans throughout Ohio and the nation, puts the “central government” in “centrist.” Sadly for the well-funded heroes at Policy Matters Ohio, Progress Ohio, Innovation Ohio, and all the other leftist institutions that would see more power in the hands of bureaucrats, Seitz voted for the budget when it counted. He’ll share the blame when Ohio goes belly-up without an omnipotent government leading the way!

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

Unions and Democrats, Joined at the Hippie Hip

Though it’s nonsense to pretend public unions funding the campaigns of Democrats they hope to bargain against isn’t a systemic conflict of interest, it’s not exactly true that the unions run the Ohio Democratic Party – or that the Democratic Party runs the unions. Which is a relief, since government unions tout their indifference to partisan politics as a key reason for their existence:

The public is best served by public employees whose first loyalty is to their job, not to a political party. In the public sector, collective bargaining insulates employees from politics and patronage.

But – you knew there was a but coming, right? – explain statements like this one from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 8:

Rather than move forward on a solution, Rep. Camp and his colleagues pulled a stunt to show that they’ll only pass a debt limit increase if it includes damaging cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, like those contained in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget.

Like nearly every other position staked out on AFSCME Council 8’s website, this debt ceiling commentary sounds mysteriously like… a certain political party’s. As does anti-budget railing from the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association:

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate rejected 40-57 a house budget plan that included a controversial provision to overhaul Medicare. The dangerous budget plan, the brainchild of conservative U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), would have ended Medicare as we know it, an outright attack on seniors, children, [Ed: and kitties, and babies, etc. etc.]

And complaints about voter ID reform from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees:

“No matter what the Republicans say, this legislation limits the rights of voters and will negatively impact the poor, the elderly and students, among others,” said Randy Weston, OAPSE director of political action and legislative affairs.

And encouragement from the Ohio Education Association (OEA) to turn children into lobbyists for green energy boondoggles:

Perhaps, the most important thing our schools can do is to teach our students to be active in petitioning local and state governments to do more to save our environment […]

The unions don’t need to control the Democratic Party, and vice versa: both slam any (non-defense) spending cut as “extreme,” offer (non-specific) tax increases as the solution to every problem, and insist all conservative arguments are driven by vicious racism because they think the same way. The Ohio Democratic Party and Ohio’s public unions are lead by like-minded Progressives who believe a few benevolent eggheads should define “fair” boundaries for the rest of us. And they’ve got just the benevolent eggheads for the job!

That’s why the AFSCME and OEA attack Republican proposals with the ferocity of beaten pit bulls, and tinkle like excited puppies when a Democrat speaks. It’s also why Progressive dweebs parrot union talking points as if the unions had a monopoly on their favorite crackers, however weak the union position or compelling the arguments against it.

Ohio’s Unreliable GOP

Despite passage of Senate Bill 5, which requires all teachers to kick the shins of no less than three (3) Democrats daily or be subject to a firing squad, Ohio conservatives should remember where much of the state GOP stands. Being more fiscally responsible than the Democrat alternative is hardly an achievement; we need to do a better job of weeding out Democrat-lite candidates during the primaries.

When the House proposed stronger voter identification rules this spring, Speaker Batchelder et al. took fire from the usual quarters, with the race card played early and often. Secretary of State Jon Husted (R, by Ohio standards) opposed the bill’s photo ID requirement, based on the assumption that it’d take more than a friend’s utility bill and 5 minutes at your computer to forge an AEP statement.

The gentle, moderate legislation passed last week by the Ohio Senate enjoyed effusive praise from Cleveland Democrat Shirley Smith:

“This bill in its current form is oppressive. It is racist. It is discriminatory,” Smith said.

Of course, the House requirement for photo ID was coupled with the guarantee of free cards for indigent Ohioans, but the Senate’s even-less-demanding legislation is still racist. Any bill that requires any likely Democrat voter to put forth even the tiniest effort is “racist,” as far as totally non-racist Democrat senators like Shirley Smith are concerned… yet these are the colleagues Ohio GOP senators feel compelled to please.

As soon as the House budget arrived in the Senate, the Senate began adding water to the original bill’s cuts and reforms. Senators decided the transparently wasteful policy of multiple-prime contracting should be tweaked instead of eliminated. First steps to a merit pay system for public employees are apparently something GOP senators will oppose with the public unions:

What’s more, rigorous performance evaluations in these states are not just in place to help determine which teachers to let go. They also will help identify and reward highly effective teachers and tailor professional development in ways that help improve instruction. Ohio should do the same, and the teacher-evaluation language presented to the Senate achieved just that.

Unfortunately, the Senate has dropped these provisions from its version of the budget, preferring instead to maintain Ohio’s status as a laggard state with archaic laws that force districts to consider only seniority when making layoff decisions.

The budget fight leads to the same question as Senate Bill 5: are voters serious about getting government out of our way? Forget the hitch – the Ohio Democratic Party’s entire wagon is class warfare, leaving the GOP to make a case for smaller, cheaper state government. Though every budget is a biennial tug-of-war, a union victory this November would mean Ohio politicians dare not challenge the unions’ costly influence again.

Voters ought to have a clear choice come referendum time – bow to leftist demands for higher taxes, or support reforms that empower the taxpayer for a change. Mercifully, enough Republican state senators voted for SB 5 to give us the second option!

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics and Columbus Tea Party.

The Narrative in NY-26

The Post-Standard in Syracuse reports on a special election result that will warm liberal hearts:

The Democrat rode a wave of voter discontent over the national GOP’s plan to change Medicare and overcame decades of GOP dominance here to capture Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District.

Well, that settles it – the American people want limitless entitlement spending and are willing to accept the necessary punishing tax increases. At least, that’s the narrative donkey Democrats will ride to next November.

Don’t read past the second paragraph, and the NY-26 special election paints a dire picture for the GOP. As sometimes happens, though, all the good news for the left is loaded into the first few sentences…

Hochul defeated Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin on Tuesday night, capturing 47 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Corwin, to win the seat vacated by disgraced Republican Chris Lee. A wealthy tea party candidate, Jack Davis, took 9 percent.

Democrat Kathy Hochul “rode a wave of voter discontent” over GOP budget proposals… to a 4 percent victory with a conservative* third-party candidate taking 9 percent. In a special election necessitated by an outrageous sex scandal involving the previous GOP congressman. But we know Medicare is the reason, because the Democrat’s supporters say so!

The special election that became a referendum on the health care plan for the nation’s seniors may serve as a warning shot to further GOP efforts to cut popular entitlement programs.

“The three reasons a Democrat was elected to Congress in the district were Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said in an interview.

This stuff goes both ways. When Scott Brown won in Kennedyland, conservatives made a fuss about what it meant for the future. In that case, the GOP victory was surprising. In this case, the Democrat’s victory is surprising. In neither case does a single issue tell the whole story – though it’s worth noting that Scott Brown took the seat of America’s most beloved leftist dynasty, didn’t have a tabloid scandal on his side, and didn’t have a third-party candidate pulling 9 percent of his opponent’s likely voters.

At least Hochul has some bold ideas for New York’s future!

“How about ending big handouts for Big Oil?” she said. “How about making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share? We can do all that and not decimate Medicare.”

The victory of another Democrat who’s wrong about nearly everything isn’t good news, but the only tragedy here for conservatives would be accepting the left’s hollow rhetoric.

* Update – Apparently the “tea party” candidate was a Democrat? Stay classy, New York.

SB 5: Closing Arguments

The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that Senate Bill 5 will likely be voted on today by both the House and Senate. This seems the perfect time to recap – especially with the impending ballot issue, to be accompanied by a melodramatic, highly organized leftist smear campaign. Don’t take it from me!

Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern today called the bill “a piece of manure.”

“It’s destined for a referendum,” he said. “The disrespect and contempt shown toward safety forces these past few months will long be remembered.”

You remember Chris Redfern! In addition to being the official spokesman of the Ohio Democratic Party, he’s an expert on disrespect and contempt.

Also on the topic of contempt, what have the Democrats in the General Assembly done throughout this process to represent the huge majority of Ohioans who aren’t in unions? That’s right: nothing, because apparently the Ohio Democratic Party attends the Michael Moore school of thought, where robbing Peter to pay Paul creates an economic perpetual motion machine.

Meanwhile, the House GOP provided amendments that make the bill stronger:

  • Allow the government employer to continue to deduct union dues from a worker’s paycheck, but no longer could it take out money the worker wants to give to the union’s political action committee.
  • Ensure that workers who strike illegally are not subject to jail time. However, Democrats argue this option is still possible if a judge finds an employee violated a court injunction.
  • Clarify that safety forces, nurses and others can bargain for equipment.
  • Eliminate the bill’s current prohibition against employees speaking to public officials during negotiations. Some lawmakers raised First Amendment concerns about the issue.

The first item on this list is a good step, even if it doesn’t go far enough. The others address specific complaints from GOP senators. Taking these new amendments (and others that make it harder for unions to squeeze government workers for dues) into account, what’s SB 5 about?

Speaker Batchelder says it plainly:

“The schools, municipal governments and townships have not really had the ability to stand up to certain bargaining practices that have occurred as a result of the 1983 legislation,” Batchelder said.

It’s easy for the unions to rally a chorus of far-left defenders against the GOP’s dreadful mathematics, making it all the more important for taxpayers to review AFSCME spending and talking points. Review OEA spending and talking points, too, and feel free to look through the source documents in case I’m a terrible conservative liar (or, as Chairman Redfern would say, a f***er).

When the GOP refuses to treat them as selfless partners for efficient government, the unions feign concern for “the children,” “the middle class,” or even small businesses. But they can’t deny the numbers: Union bosses pay Democrats millions, pay themselves even more, and demand that we pick up the ever-growing tab. With Ohio’s budget the way it is, each voter should consider a simple question: can we afford this?

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

Union Info for Ohio Reps

With Senate Bill 5 scheduled for new hearings this week, is it too optimistic to expect bolder arguments from Republicans in the House of Representatives? Speaker Batchelder, in particular, tells it like it is – and on this subject, more frankness from conservative leaders is what Ohio needs. Why? Former NEA counsel Bob Chanin says it best:

Politically, the GOP is in a tight spot because the unions, Ohio Democratic Party, Socialist Party, and Communist Party form a unified bloc willing to chain itself to a taxpayer-subsidized tree in defense of a public worker’s “right” to have a percentage of his pay whisked into union bosses’ pockets and Democrat campaign coffers. And, as always, “conservatives” in the Ohio Senate are happy to side with the Democrats if it means a few minutes in front of a camera.

To balance the odds, here – at its fair market price – is my advice for the House:

  • Exempt police, firefighters, and the highway patrol from most – or all – provisions of the bill
  • End automated payroll deduction of union dues

Most of the squishes in the Senate mention police and fire as concerns – which is fair, considering that police and fire unions serve workers with far more demanding vocations. Payroll deduction of union dues is an indefensibly bad idea, and there’s no reason Ohio taxpayers should offer it. Since the unions haven’t paused in their routine of demanding increased taxes under the guise of “good jobs,” conservative leaders should continue to push for the most serious bill they can pass.

Government unions make a mint convincing workers they’d starve without collective bargaining, and make Ohio less competitive by demanding compensation taxpayers cannot afford. If the House incorporates my recommendations as enthusiastically as the Senate did, we’ll be in business!

Background: Startling Numbers

Researching government unions after I first noticed shenanigans from a union candidate last year, the simplicity of the problem was shocking: public unions work against the taxpayers. Union bosses ignore spending trends, the average Ohioan’s tax burden, and proof that big-government policies drive citizens away. Look at the numbers, and it’s tough to conclude Ohio’s government unions care about anything besides their own power. Consider AFSCME pay:

  • Joseph Rugola, OAPSE Executive Director: $216,939
  • Gary Martin, OAPSE Associate Director: $200,163
  • Charles Roginski, OAPSE Regional Director: $164,239
  • John Lyall, AFSCME Council 8 President: $155,482
  • Andy Douglas, OCSEA Executive Director: $151,392

That’s only the top five. Ohio’s three largest AFSCME affiliates spent 31%, 32%, and 41% as much on member benefits as they spent on union pay in 2009. The Ohio Education Association may be even worse:

  • 117 union employees paid more than $100,000
  • 12 union employees paid more than $150,000
  • Executive Director Larry Wicks paid $208,469
  • Executive Director Dennis Reardon paid $202,997

In 2009, the OEA – a group that gets agitated about “the children” when you start to talk about limiting their clout – spent less than 36% as much on member benefits as on union pay.

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics and Columbus Tea Party.

Centrism, Ohio Style

Following Wednesday’s close-as-possible passage of Senate Bill 5, Tom Blumer at BizzyBlog made a troubling observation:

Yours truly suspects that the Republican caucus decided that it had to give John Kasich what he wanted, and then got into discussions over who could “safely” vote no. It’s not like they haven’t done this kind of thing before (see: cynical maneuvering, Ted Strickland’s retroactive 2009 tax increase).

Even I, with my wild-eyed ravings about government unionization, willingly concede that aspects of SB 5 may be flawed. Like the average union boss, I’m not a budget expert! But the Democrats offered no amendments, and six is a lot of Republicans to lose on a bill targeting groups who take public workers’ pay and funnel it to the leftmost causes imaginable.

The disappointing thing – I grew up in Speaker Boehner’s district, so forgive my expectation that Republicans have backbone – is the angst several GOP senators are displaying. Again, I don’t assume the bill is perfect, but the only hope of taxpayers and public employees finding sustainable middle ground starts with getting the unions out of the picture. Senator Bill Seitz might not agree:

“What a deal,” Seitz said, as he and Grendell questioned why a legislative body would ever pick the union’s offer over its own. Seitz called it a “heads I win, tails you lose solution.”

Senator Seitz misses the point: if the unions ask for more than an agency can afford and the agency meets them halfway, it’s often “heads the taxpayers get hosed, tails the union sticks it to the public.” That’s assuming the agency isn’t managed by a Democrat who is happy to give the union bosses whatever they want.

Senator Kevin Bacon, a pretty reliable voice the past few weeks, breaks it down:

The conversations I’ve had with many individuals on what post-Senate Bill 5 will look like, a lot of it comes down to do you trust your council, your school board, your township trustees, your local elected officials who will appear on the ballot again.

Exactly. Elected officials answer to the public for everything, including the way they treat their employees. Despite what the unions would have you believe, government workers would still be able to communicate with one another, their bosses, and their neighbors without a union rep siphoning dues away for political contributions and his own salary.

Senator Jim Hughes – who received over 20% of all the donations from AFSCME Local 11 to Ohio Republicans in the past decade – also criticized SB 5’s contract settlement process:

I have some concerns with that because as I read it, and I’m an attorney, the legislative body that would be deciding (the final contract) is the same management that is in negotiations with labor.

As opposed to the current arrangement, where the unions spend millions to elect the people who will sign off on their contract demands. Sadly, Senators Seitz and Hughes may not be the most egregious examples of Republicans defending the unions instead of the taxpayers:

And now there’s going to be a backlash in Ohio. People in the public believe that this collective-bargaining bill was a Republican overreach, and now you’re going to see a sort of slap-back reaction.

Fewer people would see SB 5 as Republican overreach if the Ohio Senate could form consensus around a solid conservative argument once in my lifetime. And now Senator Tim Grendell should expect a primary challenge from someone who wants to empower the average Ohioan, instead of parroting union talking points in The Washington Post.

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

This IS Payback

To Republicans wary about Senate Bill 5 and hesitant to offend unions crying over “payback” for years of campaign spending, let me offer the following: Senate Bill 5 is payback.

SB 5 pays back the Ohioans who voted for a fiscally-responsible Senate. It’s payback to the hypocrites at the AFSCME and OEA who pay themselves millions of dollars every year to fight Ohio’s local governments, school districts, and state agencies. It’s payback for parents, teachers, and taxpayers whose voices are muted by the bullhorns of national organizations dedicated to failed Progressive policies.

GOP Senators, please review Matt Mayer’s testimony from the Feb. 15th SB 5 hearing and consider my humble suggestions:

  1. Remove any impact on police, highway patrolmen, and firefighters
  2. Revoke collective bargaining rights from all other state and local government employees

These changes would leave room to debate pay, insurance, and pension policies, undermining union rhetoric by creating a distinction between unionization and other rights. The 1983 law allowing government employees to unionize was a mistake, and only by removing the largest unions from the equation can Ohio hope to find a fair, sustainable middle ground. As I said last fall:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.

Wait, that was another detestable small-government conservative – Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Academics hot for unionization should be challenged to list the protections a union offers which couldn’t be extended through legislative means. Leftists quick to foist higher taxes on “the rich” should be asked to explain why union bosses – whose businesses chiefly produce lobbying, higher labor costs, and their own salaries – deserve taxpayer support. Government employees should explain why their benefits should remain insulated amid $8 billion in deficits and an unemployment rate above 9%.

If they’re demanding even more of our tax dollars, shouldn’t government unions be able to justify why they exist in the first place?

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics and Columbus Tea Party.

The Bell Tolls for AFSCME

Since I last wrote about Ohio’s collective bargaining law for public employees, Governor-elect Kasich has hardly softened his stance on public unions:

“If they want to strike they should be fired,” Kasich said last week. “I really don’t favor the right to strike by any public employee. They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

Stories of Kasich’s resolve abound, from the Dayton Daily News to The Toledo Blade to The New York Times. Lest readers assume John’s wandered off the reservation, Speaker Batchelder offers little reassurance to union enthusiasts:

Ohio House Speaker-elect William G. Batchelder, a Medina Republican who voted against the 1983 law, said he opposes the right of public-sector employees to strike.

”It’s difficult to make a case for the existing system,” Batchelder said. ”It’s difficult to argue that the government’s coercive power to tax ought to pay for a service that isn’t being rendered.”

Predictably, the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and every Progressive group under the sun have leapt to the defense of ORC 4117, a bad idea that’s as old as me. Their bleating is familiar: Republicans hate working Americans; unions protect helpless grunts toiling in the mines; unions aren’t to blame for out-of-control spending.

These were weak excuses back when President Obama was bailing out the UAW, and they’re completely pathetic when applied to government unions. One look at The Grand Bargain is Dead, The Buckeye Institute‘s report on public employee compensation, and the pro-union position disintegrates.

What do the AFL-CIO goons, Progressive policy advocates, and Democratic Party reps all have in common? Their position is indistinguishable from the Socialists’. Yes, that’s Socialist with a capital S:

The 23 labor and movement activists from cities throughout Ohio created the Buckeye Socialist Network (there will soon be a BuckeyeSocialist.org website). The Network’s first campaign is called DEFEND OHIO and will focus on defending public employees’ jobs and public services.

“Governor Kasich has unleashed a class war in Ohio,” said Dan La Botz. “And we intend to fight back. Kasich’s inauguration is the ideal occasion for Ohio’s working people to protest at the Capital in Columbus and to show the governor that he is going to face four years of fierce resistance by unions and social movements.

Ohio is $8 – $10 billion in the hole, but leftists from here to the moon will defend government bloat to the last. The Buckeye state could continue its slide in the direction of California, Illinois, Michigan, and New York – adding bureaucracy and driving out business until we go bankrupt – and the sort of people who were just steamrolled on November 2 would scream that “tax cuts for the wealthy” were to blame.

Crippling the ability of public unions to hold Ohio taxpayers hostage will not solve Ohio’s budget crisis – and, though you wouldn’t know it from listening to his detractors, Governor-elect Kasich has been clear about that. Nonetheless, it’s an important step to fiscal sanity. Faster, please… there’s plenty more to do.

I won’t pretend it took much convincing, but I’m with Matt Mayer of The Buckeye Institute: ORC 4117 should be repealed. Updates and revisions to Ohio’s civil service law – which itself occupies hundreds of pages – would ensure that all types of public worker are fairly treated and reasonably compensated. Just don’t expect the leeches who make themselves rich on member dues, or the interest groups they fund, to tell you anything resembling that simple truth.

Hope, Etc.

National Review has an interview with Rep. Paul Ryan, one of a few bright lights on the right side of the aisle in Congress:

“We need to become the party of liberty and freedom,” Ryan argues. “We’re not doing enough. We can do better, and we will — because we have no choice. If we’re going to offer the country a completely different vision, we can’t be Democratic-lite or resign ourselves to be slightly more efficient managers and tax-collectors for the welfare state. We have to break with that and give people a clear and distinct difference.”

Hope and change as defined by President Obama are exactly what all of us wild-eyed conservatives said they’d be – schlocky advertising and accelerated government growth. That’s clearer today than at any other point this past year. Obama has demonstrated no interest in transparency, no patient bipartisanship, no meaningful variation from the leftist playbook of demonizing private employers while promising unsustainable entitlements to “the middle class.”

Congressman Ryan has been at the forefront of the GOP for months, suggesting solutions to America’s domestic problems that don’t require more spending, more IRS agents, more regulation and taxation. The Democrats’ solution to every domestic problem is to throw more of our money at it, which fits perfectly with a foreign policy of shrinking defense spending as yet another way to show our enemies how cuddly and disinterested we are.

Ryan’s speech yesterday on the House floor is an important summary of what the entire Republican Party ought to stand for:

In November we’re going to have very clearly defined options – I hope Ryan means what he says, and I hope he finds no shortage of trustworthy allies in D.C. over the coming months and years.