Ohio GOP Mayor Slams Senate Bill 5: It’s Kasich’s Budget Cuts, Not Workers’ Rights, That Forced Firefighter Layoffs

Lancaster, OH Mayor David Smith (R)

In just one week, Ohioans will vote on Issue 2 to decide if Ohio’s anti-labor law, Senate Bill 5, should stay on the books. Conservative supporters of Senate Bill 5 continue to argue that the unpopular law actually helps public employees by preventing layoffs. By taking away a worker’s right to collectively bargain, Republicans like Ohio Gov. John Kasich insist that cities will be able to afford the costs of public employees like firefighters and police because they won’t have to negotiate supposedly exorbitant contracts.

But according to David Smith, the Republican mayor of Lancaster, Ohio, that idea is the furthest one from the truth.

Smith recently had to layoff 13 firefighters and close a fire station, despite concessions from firefighters. As Smith notes, fire and police forces took no pay increases over the last two years. “Fire and police [unions’ bargaining units] had closed contracts, but they opened them up to allow us to work with them on a number of issues,” he said. But Smith still had to lay off the firefighters, and he insisted that Senate Bill 5 wouldn’t have “save[d] the day for anybody.”

Why? Because it was Kasich’s budget cuts — not the ability of workers to bargain — that left him with no other option:

Smith said Lancaster didn’t have a problem with bargaining units but rather the state’s reduction of funds allocated to local governments. In an attempt to balance the state’s budget, Governor John Kasich reduced the amount paid out to cities and towns in the state by about half.

Smith said Lancaster also received fewer local income tax dollars, as well, compounding the problems.

“We lost 50 percent of that due to the state allocating that money back to themselves, instead of to the city,” he said.

Smith said the city had been unable to fill three other firefighter positions due to budget constraints as well as five police jobs, and around 20 other city positions.

Smith added that Kasich’s elimination of the state estate tax, a move that solely benefits the wealthy, will create “yet another obstacle” in finding the funding for the city’s firefighters. Smith joins a retired Republican Ohio Supreme Court judge and a right-wing radio host in urging Ohioan to vote no on Issue 2, thereby doing away with Ohio’s anti-worker law.