Columbus Police, Fire Fighters Make Budget Cuts Due To SB5

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Opponents of Senate Bill 5 take the streets in protest.(Photo: Progress Ohio (flickr))
Opponents of Senate Bill 5 take the streets in protest.(Photo: Progress Ohio (flickr))

The alliance leading efforts to repeal Senate Bill 5 have submitted more than a million signatures, virtually assuring the issue will appear on the November ballot. Columbus firefighters and police officers marched in the parade that escorted the petitions to the Statehouse. WOSU reports some of them already are making changes to their family budgets in case the referendum fails.

While Senate Bill 5 would prohibit strikes and take away collective bargaining rights from unions it also would have a direct effect on public workers’ paychecks.

The new law reduces government contributions to public employees’ pensions and it mandates public workers pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance costs.

That means Columbus police officers and fire fighters would see a cut in their pay.

Jim Gilbert is president of Columbus’ Fraternal Order of Police union. Gilbert said the union is worried.

“Many of our members are concerned, especially those who are just getting married, those who are deciding on purchasing homes,” Gilbert said.

The city’s police and fire employees could see a six percent increase in their health care premiums. And they’d have to pitch in up to 6.5 percent more for their retirement.

To break that down: for a new firefighter or police officer making about $40,000 a year, their monthly take-home pay would be cut by about $260. Workers who have been on the job longer and make more stand to lose more.

“My wife’s a teacher so we could lose our house over this,” Scott Klinger said.

Klinger said Senate Bill 5 is a double whammy for his family. He is also a public worker. Klinger’s been a Columbus Police officer for 17 years. And he’s not waiting to see what happens in November.

“We’ve already had to start the refinancing process just in case. We can’t wait until December. We can’t. And that’s forced our budget into kind of a tailspin, too. We can’t do what we normally do,” he said.

Sixteen-year Columbus fire fighter Gary Cox said he and his wife have looked at all the possibilities to make sure his family has the funds it needs in the event Senate Bill five is not repealed.

“We’ve looked at cashing in savings to make sure we have enough to get by. We’ve looked at how we’re going to save for our kids’ college. We’ve looked at a lot of things like that. We’ve looked at how we’re going to cut our day to day spending,” he said.

But Cox said the cuts will not impinge on just on his family.

“It’s going to affect every merchant and every business that is patronized by any public worker. Not out of spite, just because we’re not going to have the money to patronize people. And that’ll have a significant impact, I think, on Ohio’s economy in general,” Cox said.

But supporters of the collective bargaining limits say in the long run it will help Ohio’s economy by lowering government spending. They say the new law brings public worker benefits more in line with the private sector. Bob Clegg is a Republican strategist and supporter of SB 5.

“Welcome to the real world. This is the way everyone in the private sector has been having to deal with especially with the economic situation that we’re experiencing now. I mean it doesn’t matter what happens in November. Things have changed. State and local governments are not going to have the kind of monies they’ve had in the past to give these kinds of benefits and these kind of perks to these public employees. And it’s just changed,” Clegg said.

Public workers remain cautiously optimistic about the referendum’s passage in November. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law in March. The ballot issue delays the bill’s implementation until after the November election.

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