Updated Wed, Oct 26, 2011 11:10 pm
Entire program or short segment of program can be viewed above.
The WOUB Newswatch In-Depth panel discussion on Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 resulted in supporters and opponents weighing the fairness of the bill for public workers against the potential reduction of government spending in the state of Ohio.
Issue 2 supporters Pete Couladis, chairman of the Athens County Republican party, and Republican State Representative Andy Thompson of Marietta argued throughout the program with opponents Dale Butland of We Are Ohio and Democratic State Representative Debbie Phillips of Athens.
Supporters, including those on the panel and citizens chiming in with calls and emails, argue that Republican Governor John Kasich’s Senate Bill 5 will control state spending by rewarding public workers with merit based pay, removing tax increases from the equation and putting control in the hands of local officials and business leaders.
Opponents disputed that the bill would benefit average, middle-class citizens and public servants, and instead punish public workers for the budget problems, removing their right to collectively bargain and destroying jobs.
“Senate Bill 5 blames public workers for a problem they didn’t create,” said Dale Butland. “Collective bargaining is reduced to a hollow shell in this bill.”
Thompson fired back that collective bargaining is what put the state of Ohio in its current state of financial strife to begin with.
“We have a lot of school districts that are in deep financial trouble right now,” said Thompson, “making deals that they couldn’t afford in terms of collective bargaining. We are looking at 28 years where nothing has changed.”
Representative Phillips is adamantly against the bill because of the implication that public workers are being punished for financial struggles that were not their fault.
“I do believe the bill is deeply unfair to public employees,” said Phillips. “Public servants did not cause the problems we are facing today. This budget is what caused problems for local governments.”
Opponents of Senate Bill 5 believe that the issue is balancing the budget on the backs of public workers, forcing them to pay more into pension and health care plans, while at the same time losing their right to strike and fight for wages and pay scales. Fire departments, police officers and public school teachers are generally viewed as those who would be affected the most.
Proponents, however, feel that local officials are being given the flexibility and control they need to deal with local governments and employees, which will in turn allow them to delegate what spending and costs are unnecessary.
The arguments continually came back to core points for those on both sides of the fence.
The bill’s supporters are heavily in favor of the lack of tax increases and the potential spending cuts that will result from the bill.
Opponents feel strongly that public workers should have the ability to bargain for wages and benefits.
Issue 2 will be on the ballot for a final vote on Tuesday, November 8.