Chaos theory shows us small differences in initial conditions result in widely diverging outcomes for chaotic systems, which make long-term prediction impossible in general. This happens even in systems in which future In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as chaos. The butterfly effect is a metaphor for how a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere; a butterfly flapping its wings in Australia can cause a storm in southern California.
Ohio has State Senator Shannon Jones [R, Springboro] and Senate Bill 5.
Unless you are Michael Moore, or worship at the chapel of our goddess of high speed rail, there is no doubt that Ohio has serious immediate and long-term financial problems. Of the 3000-some collective bargaining units in Ohio, some have serious unfunded pension liabilities. The state is facing an immediate $8 Billion budget shortfall; the transportation budget – a separate budget entirely – has long term structural issues and a projected $7 Billion shortfall over the next 5-10 years. Local school boards ask for more operational funding year after year. Locally we can look at the Lakota and Little Miami schools for an object lesson in what the voters think of that plan. Ohio has lost over 600,000 citizens in the past ten years, and with them the taxes they could have paid if Ohio had not also been losing jobs to Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia.
Strickland and the Democrats plugged holes with one time fixes, stimulus money and a last minute tax increase. Last November Ohio voters made it clear they wanted change, returning control of the state to fiscally conservative, Tea Party supported Republicans. We chose our state representatives, state senators and Governor Kasich to make the tough decisions necessary to reform and transform state government.
Kasich and the Republican legislative majority passed the Jobs Ohio Bill [Senate and House Bill 1], are working on regulatory reform, pension reform, performance based audits of state government, construction reform and Medicaid reform. Then there is Sen. Jones’ Senate Bill 5. Senator Jones does not argue that her bill will have massive front-end savings, but that it changes the structure of the relationship between public sector unions and their employers – Ohio taxpayers. The Buckeye Institute estimates that making state-worker compensation [benefits and salary] comparable to private sector compensation could erase almost 30 percent of the $8 billion shortfall over the next two years.
At a community forum Monday night Jones repeatedly stated that changing the structure, especially as regards merit-based retention, will actually prevent massive layoffs. She reported that the Deputy Mayor of Toledo testified in support of SB 5. In Toledo, because of the way the contracts are structured, Toledo cannot lay off a supervisor without first terminating 75-non supervisory employees.
Right now, Ohio is facing declining revenues that cannot be corrected by raising taxes or cutting non-union statehouse salaries. Ohioans are the 7thmost taxed Americans; raising taxes is a non-starter in this economic and political environment.
Putting aside for a moment the already high taxes paid by Ohio taxpayers, there is no correlation between tax revenues and financial solvency. From 2002 thru 2007 state governments increased revenues by approximately 80%, four times faster than price inflation and population growth. If states had increased expenditures only to keep up with inflation and population studies show they would have $2 trillion in reserves when the national economy tanked in 2008. Instead, most states had a budget shortfall in 2008 and are in an even more precarious position today. When government revenues increase, local state or federal, they don’t typically pay down debt – they start new programs, expand existing ones, and kick the fiscal can further down the road.
In response to a question, during the Q & A portion of Monday’s community forum, Jones explained how the taxpayers would be represented at the bargaining table under SB 5 [as it passed the Senate]. The Senator’s answer was lengthy, but specific. First, bargaining would occur as normal for 90-days. If the two sides could not reach an agreement both would have to post their last best offer so the voters and taxpayers could make an informed decision about the differences separating labor and management.
Second, any neutral fact finder brought in after the 90-day period would be required to consider the community’s ability to pay wages and benefits without either a tax increase or sale of assets. Michigan has a similar law which seems to work well. Third, the fact finder’s report would be sent to the local legislative body – city council, township trustees, local school board – the elected officials would have to vote up or down on the final report. The theory being the elected officials most accountable to the voters would have to make the final decision.
It is this last step that pushed both Senator Seitz and Senator Grendell to vote No on SB5. Senator Seitz, in a letter he shared with me, stated
I can support eliminating the right to strike and the elimination of binding arbitration by unelected arbitrators, so long as there is a mechanism by which an elected neutral party [such as an elected judge] can make the final decision. The bill does not provide for this – it lets the very units of local government who have in some cases “given away the store” to collect union votes make the decision.
Further on, Senator Seitz notes the restriction on what should be everyone’s right to communicate to their elected officials. SB 5 restricts this right [see lines 7751-7753, 7769-7775]. Seitz says
What happened to the First Amendment right of all citizens to free speech and to petition their elected officials for redress of grievances?
SB 5 does address pension shortfalls, nor does it does not address paycheck protection for workers who don’t wish to have union dues automatically deducted from their checks. Rep. Peter Stautberg [R, OH House District 34] believes automatic dues deduction is a union by union and community by community decision.
A frequent criticism of SB 5 is that police and firefighters will not have the right to bargain over safety issues – 2-man patrols, safety equipment, etc. Senator Jones maintains there is nothing in her bill that changes bargaining over these issues. Neither is it specifically protected. Currently these types of issues are bargained under the “terms and conditions” of employment. She did say “I believe that will happen” when asked if the Ohio House would address this issue.
There was the obligatory teacher who spoke against SB 5. She maintained that teachers would be “stripped” of any protection offered by collective bargaining, that teachers wouldn’t have a say in management decisions regarding class size, for example. On this I agree with Senator Jones – class size and other related issues are management decisions. Our schools have building principals, superintendents and local school boards elected by the taxpayers and consumers of the area’s education system. They are the management and these are their decisions. I would also point that local school systems, such as Mariemont, are non-union and seem to do very well. Just like there is no direct relationship between the amount of money spent and educational outcome, there is also no direct correlation between unionized teachers and student achievement.
It’s important to remember that giving teachers’ unions the ability to bargain class size can be used to increase the number of teachers who then pay dues to the union. There is a U Tube video of NEA Union lawyer saying that closing achievement gaps, student performance is secondary to preserving union rights [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLxZ9V2ns84].
The real issue was not whether public employees should have the right to bargain collectively but whether public employees should be answerable to the taxpayers who pay the bills or to the party they helped to elect. We cannot spend our way to prosperity, or to educational nirvana.