Throughout the first hundred days of this General Assembly, I have continually focused my efforts on legislation that will strengthen our economy, balance our budget, create jobs and lead to prosperity. With the shortage of money we have as a state, we have been making diligent efforts to close the budget gap without raising taxes on Ohioans who cannot afford it during these tough times.
Local government costs have skyrocketed. As the situation has gotten progressively worse and spending has not been contained-with less state money to go around to local government bodies-we've recently passed legislation aimed at reinventing the relationship between public-sector unions, their employers and local taxpayers. This legislation-Senate Bill 5-certainly does not come without strong emotion and heated rhetoric, regardless of the side you're on.
It saddens me that much of the anger and disappointment over this bill has been based not on the facts of the legislation but on misinformation that has been spread. This was made even clearer to me when a local teacher (who had concerns about the bill) recently visited my home.
In the course of our discussion, I learned that much of what she thought the legislation contained was actually not a part of the bill. She displayed a chart she'd received, which purported to show that her salary would be cut in half. I reassured her that this was not the case. Another teacher reported to me that her pension was going to be "taken away." That, too, was untrue, I informed her.
These encounters heightened my concerns about the misinformation the public employees were being given by their unions. As a way to counter this misinformation, our caucus at the Ohio House launched SB5truth.com, which I encourage you to explore over the coming months. SB5truth.com allows you to see that the reality that is in Senate Bill 5 is much different than what is being portrayed. For instance, did you know that S.B.5 actually does not eliminate collective bargaining, that it does not mandate salary reductions or cuts in benefits for any public employee, and that it does not threaten the ability of hard-working, middle-class families to earn a living?
I also encourage you, if you are computer savvy, to visit some of the newspaper websites around the state. You'll find many editorials praising the reforms included in Senate Bill 5 as responsible steps in the right direction for Ohio. While I'm merely one of many sources of information regarding this bill, it may work best for you to read the bill, and you can do so by visiting www.legislature.state.oh.us. You may conclude, as I have, that it was a very responsible way to address the unsustainable costs that would have eventually led to massive layoffs and a deterioration of public services in our communities.
As your representative, I have a responsibility to ensure Ohio's laws are beneficial to all families. Those on the other side of this issue do not share my desire to look after the interests of all of the taxpaying citizens of the 93rd House District. That is why I find it particularly appalling that the Ohio Education Association is considering punishing its members by forcing them to pay for the campaign against Senate Bill 5. It is placing the burden of its $20 million campaign on their backs and has even threatened to raise union dues to pay for it. It is unacceptable that our teachers' hard-earned dollars are going to this purpose without their written consent. This is a slap in the face not only to the free speech of all Ohioans, but especially to those working in our schools.
I am happy that Senate Bill 5 will address these concerns with the way public unions operate and treat their members. I am pleased that we have found an acceptable way of addressing the manner in which taxpayer funds are spent, and we did so without kicking the can down the road as past legislatures and governors had.
This is ultimately about the Ohio we want for our children and grand-children. Will massive amounts of money be spent beyond our control or will the people, at-large, have the ultimate say in the process? I hope you'll join me in supporting this legislation and the vast majority of Ohioans who are on the side of a responsible and efficient government.
Rep. Thompson may be reached by calling (614) 644-8728, e-mailing District93@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Andy Thompson, 77 South High St., Columbus, Ohio, 43215.