By the slimmest of margins on Wednesday, the state Senate in Ohio passed the budget bill endorsed by Gov. John Kasich (R) and deplored by the unions and Democrats. The bill now moves to the state House where the sizable Republican majority is expected to pass it easily.
But before it does, it’s worth taking a look at the six Republicans who voted against the bill in the Senate, and the fears they raised about the bill. Ohio will be an important state nationally in 2012, and is often pointed to in the press as a bellwhether for the national political picture. And to hear the Republicans who turned on Kasich in the Senate yesterday tell it, the bill that would gut collective bargaining rights for thousands of state workers in Ohio is a step too far to the right.
“This bill is not balanced,” Sen. Scott Oelslager, one of two Republicans booted from their committee seats so the bill could pass, told the AP. “There has to be a balance between labor and management in negotiations. It tips the scales in favor of management.”Oelslager was pulled from the Senate Rules Committee to break a deadlock that would have kept the bill from moving to a floor vote. Sen. Bill Seitz, a member of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee until Wednesday, shared Oelsager’s fate, also being pulled from his committee. He warned that the bill, known as SB 5, puts Republicans on the wrong side of Ohio voters by removing the right of union workers to bargain for benefits and other rights.
“It’s a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ proposition,” Seitz told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We don’t have to get down into the weeds of the finer points of the law. Average Americans and Ohioans understand that ‘heads I win, tails you lose is not a very fair method of dispute resolution.”’
Oelsager and Seitz were joined by four other Republican Senators in opposing SB 5 on the Senate floor. All ten of the Senate’s Democrats voted against the bill. The other GOP Senators opposing the bill also worried about the appearance of going to battle with the state’s union teachers, police officers and firefighters.
Sen. Jim Hughes, who the Columbus Dispatch describes as a “generally pro-union Republican” told the paper “he had problems with taking away binding arbitration from police and firefighters.”
“I have some concerns with that because as I read it, and I’m an attorney, the legislative body that would be deciding [the final contract] is the same management that is in negotiations with labor,” Hughes said.
Sen. Gayle Manning said her opposition to SB 5 came from voter concerns. Union workers in her district have accepted paycuts and pay freezes — a sign that they’re willing to work with government to balance the budget, Manning said.
“I didn’t support it just because talking to people in our district I felt that our district had been doing a lot of the stuff our district has been asked to do,” Manning told the North Coast Chronicle-Telegram. “I believe in local control. I did a lot of research; I talked to a lot of mayors and superintendents and union people, and everybody seems to be working together.”
SB 5 could also end up costing Ohio some money, said. Sen. Tim Grendell (R). He told the Youngstown Business Journal Daily SB 5 “turns workers into ‘beggars'” and will “generate litigation like two rabbits generate 20 rabbits.”
The other Republican to vote against the bill was Sen. Tom Patton.
Of course, plenty of Republicans back SB 5, and say it’s a necessary step to get Ohio back on the fiscal track.
“Thousands remain unemployed,” Sen. Shannon Jones (R) said on the floor yesterday, according to the Washington Post. “Companies are leaving our state. Financially, our state and local governments are at the breaking point. Revenues are on the decline. Demand for services is on the rise. And the cost of government is growing beyond the ability to sustain it.”
Kasich, who has defended consistently as the union protests have heated up, lauded the passage in a statement (PDF) Wednesday.
“This is a major step forward in correcting the imbalance between taxpayers and the government unions that work for them,” he said. “Senate Bill 5 is just one piece of a larger plan to create a jobs-friendly climate in Ohio that is essential to returning prosperity to our state.”