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After SB5 defeat and budget that cuts funds to localities, Kasich warns against cities asking for state to ‘bail them out’

After voters felled Ohio Governor John Kasich’s signature anti-collective-bargaining law yesterday, he responded with an assurance that the state wasn’t going to pony up any new cash to help struggling cities.

“We have to listen carefully to what local governments say they want,” the governor told reporters last night after the election, “because the ability to … bail them out, to somehow come to the rescue with money -– we don’t have the money to do that.”

But it seems obvious that Kasich wouldn’t be “bailing out” local governments, especially after halving the state’s payments to them. The governor’s budget, passed earlier this year, included $1.4 million worth of cuts to the state’s municipalities, monies earned through sales tax revenue.

The budget also included dramatic cuts to health services, including around $360 million in cuts to nursing homes, according to the Associated Press.

“Certainly, no one was expecting a bailout of any kind from the state of Ohio,” said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s spokesperson, Dan Williamson, in an interview with The American Independent. “It’s not that we aren’t concerned with it, but it is was it is, and we are dealing with it,” he said of Columbus losing state money. “No one thought, ‘well, if Senate Bill 5 loses, the state is going to give us some cash’; that didn’t seem very likely.

“The mayor spoke out and said that cutting the local government fund in half wasn’t ‘shared sacrifice,’ it was disproportionate sacrifice, and he spoke out against the elimination of the estate tax, which doesn’t help the state budget at all, it only hurts cities.”

The new budget does, however, give breaks for business, totaling around $400 million annually, according to an estimate by Progress Ohio.

“The mayor spoke out on those things, and the Legislature passed it (the budget) anyway,” said Williamson. “You’ll see when we introduce our budget on Tuesday that we’re looking ahead to where those cuts are going to hit us.

“It’s passed,” he said of the state budget. “We know what’s coming. We can’t change what’s coming.”

Overcoming challenges

Williamson said that the City of Columbus has worked out many of its greatest challenges through the collective-bargaining process with the city’s workers, including phasing out the practice of pension pick-up and asking employees to pay more for their health care.

“What we’ve done with the city of Columbus is, frankly, a lot of the stuff I think [Kasich] was trying to achieve through SB5, which is getting employee benefits in-line with the market,” he said. “Before the voters voted for the income tax increase last year, we put out a reform plan and that was to reduce the amount we spent on employee benefits, and already, in just two years, we are projected to save at least $200 million in that ten-year period of time,” he said. (The city’s original commitment was to save $100 million over the next decade.)

Williamson said that, while the Legislature and the government had passed SB5 on the premise unions were insatiable and third-party dispute arbitrators were favorable to unions, Columbus had not found that to be the case.

“We found the arbitration period works very well,” he said, adding that phasing in cuts gradually mitigated the effect workers felt on their wallets.

“I think if Governor Kasich were to look at what we’re doing in the city of Columbus, he would find that some of what he would like to accomplish can be done by working with the unions,” he said. “Hopefully, as he looks at what steps to take now, that could be helpful for both the Legislature and the governor.”

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