State Rep. Al Landis of Dover might have thought he'd give something back to his community in his retirement years by serving in the Ohio Legislature. You know, pass some bills, solve the budget crisis -- whatever.
Perhaps he's finding out it isn't that easy. Welcome to hardball, Mr. Landis.
Here's what he told the Times-Reporter when asked about Senate Bill 5, the let's-do-away-with-collective-bargaining legislation:
“I can’t make a whole lot of comments yet because it’s in the Senate. I’ll see what it looks like when it comes to the House. I’ll learn as much about it as I can before I make any decision.”
Huh? Why is he precluded from voicing his opinion on the bill just because it's in the Senate?
The truth is probably that he is precluded from actually rendering an opinion because half of his constituents will hate him for it, no matter what he says.
It's a lot like the abortion issue, or health care. No matter what side of the argument you come down on, it will be the wrong one as far as a lot of people are concerned.
So, Landis is taking the easy way out now, and perhaps he will escape from actually having to tell his constituents what he thinks about Gov. John Kasich's idea of killing collective bargaining for public employees. Maybe Senate Bill 5 will be watered down. Maybe it won't pass.
Do you feel lucky, Mr. Landis?
For some reason, politicians, i.e. Kasich, today want to make the big statement. Let's not focus in on the binding arbitration problem, let's just do away with collective bargaining altogether -- in one fell swoop.
Binding arbitration, where a third party settles a public employee labor disagreement without regard to taxpayer revenue, seems to be the biggest problem. Why don't we focus on that initially and encourage unions to come to grips with reality in the meantime?
OK, public employee benefit packages are much better than what the private sector is currently offering. But I think there's a special place in hell for the private sector publicly traded companies that have cut 401(k) contributions on behalf of their employees while handing corporate bigwigs hefty bonuses. That isn't right either.
And dumb things are being said on both sides.
Republicans would have you believe that doing away with collective bargaining will go a long way in solving the $8 billion budget deficit. Really, how? It might help going forward, but explain to me how it helps the state cover the deficit now. I don't get it.
(Let's put the deficit in perspective: The last estimate of earthquake damage in New Zealand that I heard was $8 billion. The quake leveled the country's second largest city, Christchurch.)
Let's also hope that members of public unions stop saying that collective bargaining is a constitutional right. It's not. It was granted in Ohio by an act of the Legislature and can be taken away -- just like driving privileges.
Kasich believes he has a mandate for change, much like President Barack Obama did after he first won election. I'm not sure any leader today has a mandate for total unadulterated change. I think most voters want clear thinkers, not shoot-from-the-hippers. Voters want public servants to work with the opposition and provide the necessary tweaks to a system that desperately needs attention. Blowhards need not apply.
One thing is for sure. All of us will pay the price of an $8 billion budget deficit.
And laying the blame indirectly on middle class teachers, cops and firefighters seems a bit of a stretch to me. The vitriol aimed at the group from some members of the public says more about the sin of jealousy than concern over how the state went broke.
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