Earlier this year, Ohio state legislators passed a controversial bill limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees unions. Included in the SB5 legislation is a provision to eliminate small automatic pay increases for state workers, including teachers, cops, and firefighters.
Ohio Republicans justified the move by arguing that state needed to shrink the size of government and save money in public employee contracts. However, when it comes to the salaries of Republican staffers, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) was not nearly as concerned with fiscal discipline.
A new investigation by the preeminent Ohio blog Plunderbund shows that rather than leading by example and asking his own employees to tighten their belts like they did public employees with SB5, Niehaus has been giving major retroactive pay increases to his staff. Those raises were as high as 37 percent:
Plunderbund research reveals that GOP Senate President Tom Niehaus, leader of the brain trust behind a bill to strip benefits from rank and file public employees, and champion of a budget that makes painful cuts to nearly every program in the state, has now committed the ultimate act of hypocrisy. [...]
Now, in the most recent move, quietly, effective with the first paycheck of the new fiscal year, Niehaus has followed the lead of the Governor by rewarding his top staff with enormous taxpayer-funded pay increases. His Chief of Staff, Assistant Chief of Staff, Finance Director and Senate Clerk all received a $15,000 yearly pay increase. The Deputy Finance Directory received a whopping $23,005 increase. [...]
Furthermore, the increases were retroactive, such that on July 16, these same staffers each took home checks containing 26 weeks of back pay at the higher rate, as if their raises had been in place since January. [...]
So, after passing SB5 which eliminates automatic 3% pay increases for state workers, the Senate handed their own staff raises ranging from 12 to 37%.
After SB5 was signed into law, one consequence has been that public workers are retiring in droves in order to avoid the new legislation’s onerous pension reforms.
Still, many in the Buckeye State are fighting back. A major opposition effort emerged, gathering nearly 1.3 million signatures to get a repeal referendum on the November ballot – one million signature more than necessary to hold a vote. A poll in May found 54 percent of Ohioans want to repeal the law, outpacing supporters by 18 points. Even Gov. John Kasich (R) has recognized SB5′s unpopularity and offered to sit down and negotiate the bill with labor organizers in advance of of November’s repeal vote.
Of course, all public employees should receive adequate compensation for the important work they do, not just Republican Senate staffers. For Niehaus to cut firefighter’s pay while giving major raises to his own staff isn’t just unfair; it reeks of hypocrisy.