Public workers in Ohio will be descending upon the Ohio statehouse today to protest Senate Bill 5, a legislative effort to strip state employees of their collective bargaining rights. The bill is similar to one proposed in Wisconsin that set off days of protest there.
Wisconsin’s Republican leadership is trying to use the state’s budget woes as a justification for its assault on workers’ rights, even though stripping workers of the ability to collectively bargain won’t fix the state’s fiscal position (which has been made substantially worse by Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) insistence on a slew of tax cuts). And Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) last night broke out the same script on Fox News:
You know, to understand what we face out here, we’re $8 billion in the hole. And we are not a competitive state. We’ve lost 600,000 jobs in the last 10 years, and only California and Michigan have done worse. And our young people leave after three years, a third of our college graduates. What I’m doing is I’m going to cut taxes, preserve the tax cut we have, and I’m going to balance this budget and I’m going to restructure the state. And collective bargaining is just one piece of an overall reform program designed to make us competitive again…I mean, we’re $8 billion in the hole. If you were $8 billion in the hole and you realized there are things that you can do to control your costs or to give other people the means to control their costs, wouldn’t you do it? And that’s exactly what this bill is.
Kasich is indeed facing an $8 billion budget hole, but its unclear what stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights would do to fix that situation. As Policy Matters Ohio found, states that deny public workers the right to collectively bargain are in no better fiscal shape (and, in many cases, are worse off) than states that do allow workers to bargain collectively. “Ohio’s budget problem is a revenue crisis, caused by a weak economy and ill-advised tax reductions that have deprived the state of needed revenue. Eliminating collective bargaining is not going to solve a revenue crisis,” explained Policy Matters Ohio Executive Director Amy Hanauer.
Plus, Kasich, shortly after bemoaning his state’s budget situation, insisted that he will implement a slew of budget-busting tax cuts that he’s proposed. These cuts will double the state’s deficit — by eliminating the state’s estate tax and income tax — while likely not leading to any noticeable job growth. Kasich has even proposed privatizing some of the state’s assets in order to finance new tax cuts for corporations and the rich, as Kevin Donohoe pointed out.
Republicans across the country are using the understandable anxiety of difficult economic times to push forward proposals kneecapping their ideological foes: public employees and the unions that represent them. But if Kasich were serious about addressing his budget, he’d rethink implementing policies that will make the problem significantly worse, instead of launching a political assault that has nothing to do with the problem at hand.