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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – Entering his 10th month as governor, Republican Gov. John Kasich, who won his seat by fewer than 78,000 votes statewide, is getting a taste of the same lash of criticism he whipped former Gov. Ted Strickland with last year. The whip this time is being wielded by Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, that Wednesday charged Gov. John Kasich and legislators who voted for Senate Bill 5 (Issue 2 on the November ballot) with “gross hypocrisy.” Innovation Ohio, run by political bloodhounds who have long been associated with Gov. Strickland and the Ohio Democratic Party, say the Governor and his allies have not only exempted themselves from many of the sacrifices they are demanding of other public employees, but also enjoy salaries, perks and privileges that far exceed those available to regular working Ohioans.
Do as I say, not as I do
Gov. Kasich took the statehouse by storm in early January, promising to revive Ohio’s moribund economy through a combination of cutting the cost of doing business in Ohio for business, reducing burdensome government regulations and balancing a budget without raising taxes. During the nearly ten months of his administration, Kasich has watched as Ohio’s unemployment rate has risen each of the last three consecutive months to 9.1 percent, the same as the national unemployment rate.
JobsOhio, Gov. Kasich’s personnel panacea for what ails Ohio that privatized the state’s formally public economic development agency, is only now getting underway, following the furious battle over its creation by Republicans who control the Ohio General Assembly and Democrats who have virtually no power to change or stop any bill from becoming law if that be the will of Kasich and his friendly lawmaker class.
Innovation Ohio (IO) unleashed its lash on Kasich and Republican legislators with a series of claims that while they are not really news, nonetheless highlights that what’s good for the goose – the governor, his staff and his cabinet members – isn’t necessarily good for the gander, all other Ohioans, especially the over 350,000 public union workers like police, firefighters, teachers and others who represent the bull’s eye SB 5, Ohio’s new collective bargaining bill whose effective date depends on whether voters approve or disapprove of it as Issue 2 on the November ballot, was meant to hit.
Pay, perks hypocrisy
Among its claims of hypocrisy, IO says Gov. Kasich, whose annual salary is $148,165 (over $10,000 more than his predecessor received), is exempt from the “performance pay” provisions of SB 5, and is still eligible to receive automatic annual 3 percent “step increases” that SB 5 would terminate for other public workers.
Gov. Kasich, while repeatedly calling for cuts in the pay and benefits of state and local government workers, pays his own senior staff an average salary of over $110,000. IO says the former managing director for Lehman Brothers has repeatedly “fudged the numbers on what he pays all workers in his office.” In April, IO noted, he told the General Assembly that the Governor’s Office payroll was just over $4.8 million. But as of May 7, the actual figure was just over $5.4 million —12 percent more than what the Governor claimed.
IO says Gov. Kasich’s 27 Cabinet members earn an average base pay of more than $131, 000 and at least 22 of them each receive an additional $6,600 per year in “car allowances.” At least 7 Cabinet members are also ‘double dippers” who receive state pensions in addition to their government salaries.
Whipping GOP legislators with equal fury, IO said all Members of the Ohio General Assembly earn a base salary of $60,584 for working a part-time job (the average annual salary for all Ohio workers is just over $40,000). But among the 70 Representatives and Senators who voted for SB 5, just 8 earn that “minimum.” The other 62 receive “leadership bonuses” ranging from nearly $34,000 per year to $5,000 annually, with the average bonus being over $8,600. Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati – the only current member of the Senate who does not receive a bonus and was in the Senate when the SB 5 vote took place – had his bonus taken away when he refused to support the legislation.
Though fiercely critical of “double dipping” by other public workers, IO said 12 House and Senate members who support SB 5 are themselves double-dippers (one is a triple-dipper), and collect legislative salaries in addition to state pensions. Perhaps the biggest single double-dipper in Ohio is House Speaker Bill Batchelder, who receives over $100,000 in a PERS pension, on top of his $94,500 annual legislative salary.
Unlike regular Ohioans who are prohibited by law from claiming “mileage reimbursements” for car travel to and from their principal places of work, Ohio House and Senate members voting for SB 5 collect an average of $3,361 per year for driving to the State House to do their jobs.
Under SB 5, paid sick leave and vacation days would be reduced for average public workers. But General Assembly members enjoy unlimited paid leave for any reason whatsoever, subject only to the “approval” of the House and Senate leadership, whose approval is rarely, if ever, denied. Other perks for legislators abound, including thousands of dollars worth of free tickets to athletic events like football, basketball and baseball games, free meals, and other gifts.
When Ohio’s biennial budget went into conference committee behind closed doors, the first action legislators took was to remove a 5 percent pay cut for themselves, a demonstration that while they fainted to understand the tough times the economy was having on great populations of working Ohioans, they were in charge of themselves and were not about to diminish the pay or perks that come with being a part-time lawmaker who avails themselves of full-time pay and perks, like taxpayer funded health insurance and pension payments.
Dale Butland, Communications Director for IO who has been a long-time Democratic operative, said, “Politicians who support SB 5 and Issue 2 obviously do not embarrass easily. Their shamelessness is truly breathtaking.” Butland said Kasich and his uber-friendly GOP lawmakers are all for pay and benefit cuts, as long as those cuts apply to police, firefighters, teachers, and not to themselves. “They’re against double-dipping,unless they’re the double dippers. They think paid leave and sick days should be strictly limited, as long as they can miss work whenever they wish and still get paid. In short, Gov. Kasich and his legislative allies deeply believe in sacrifice, as long as they and their rich campaign contributors aren’t doing the sacrificing. There’s a word for politicians who propose one set of rules for themselves and a different one for everyone else. It’s spelled ‘hypocrisy’ with a capital ‘H.'”
Strickland strikes back
In Cleveland yesterday, Strickland said its critical that the Tea Party and “the greedy corporate elite and the anti-labor zealots” be turned back.
“It is a political power grab, and consequently it must be defeated,” Stricland said in published reports.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols dismissed Strickland’s criticism as he has many times before with a characteristic snarky retort.
“I would compare policy advice from him to sailing lessons from the captain of the Titanic,” Nichols wrote in an email that attacked Strickland’s term, according to the Plain Dealer. “Losing 400,000 jobs, raising taxes by $840 million, blowing an $8 billion hole in the budget, and then planning to raise taxes again to clean up the mess probably disqualifies someone from being a credible policy thinker.”Kasich bloodhounds sniff out examples of executive, legislative pay, perks hypocrisy
Backers of SB 5 shrink Issue 2 deficit
Meanwhile, in related news, a Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday shows that campaign efforts by Kasich and his allies who want to keep SB 5 on the books, have reduced the margin opponents who want to defeat it at the polls in the next six weeks once enjoyed by half.
A spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, the pro-SB 5 group, said, “This survey shows clear momentum in support of State Issue 2. In just two months, the opposition’s lead has been cut in half, despite millions of dollars being spent on misleading ads. Ohioans continue to show the more they learn about Issue 2, the more they like. Three of its fundamental reforms have overwhelming public support, and we’re confident the margin will continue to narrow as voters understand the issue. We’re focused on waging a fact-based education campaign that cuts through the scare tactics and gets to the heart of these reasonable reforms that will help communities save jobs, balance budgets and avoid the never-ending demand for higher taxes that hurt us all.”
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