The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) has announced its support for passage of State Issue 2. The measure, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, will retain the reforms to public employee collective bargaining laws passed by the General Assembly in March. OFBF’s board of trustees announced its endorsement following extensive study and deliberation.
OFBF determined that Ohio taxpayers, families and communities would be best served by passage of Issue 2, according to John C. (Jack) Fisher, Farm Bureau’s executive vice president. Provisions of the issue are consistent with the policies established by Farm Bureau’s grassroots membership.
“If we are to preserve jobs and services, local governments need flexibility to manage ever increasing labor costs. Issue 2 allows public employees to collectively bargain for hours, salaries, terms and conditions, just like they have for more than 25 years,” Fisher said. “But now, taxpayers have equal footing when it comes to the negotiating process.”
With the private sector losing jobs and generating less tax revenue, and with salaries, health care and retirement benefits accounting for as much as 80 percent of local budgets, local governments must be able to manage their finances in ways that are fair for their public employees while also being accountable to taxpayers.
For example, public sector employees currently pay less than 9 percent of the cost of their health care on average and many pay nothing into their own pensions. Private sector employees pay 31 percent of their health care costs on average and often get no pension. Passage of Issue 2 would bring public employees closer to what private sector employees pay.
“Ohio’s tax burden, driven mostly by the costs of local government, is the 16th highest in the nation. Factory workers, office workers, farmers and anyone else with a nongovernment job can’t afford to just keep paying more,” Fisher said.
During its deliberations, Farm Bureau met with representatives of both Issue 2 campaigns, studied various reports, listened to member input and hosted the first debate between the campaigns on its weekly public affairs radio program Town Hall Ohio.
Both sides made compelling arguments, Fisher said. However, opponents to Issue 2 were unable to convince the organization that many of their concerns were valid.
“We believe passage of Issue 2 will actually preserve public sector jobs and services,” Fisher said. “It gives school boards, city councils and other local authorities more options to control costs other than layoffs or firings.”
OFBF will provide its members and the public with materials that will allow them to closely examine the issue and arrive at an informed conclusion. The organization will encourage Ohioans to carefully study the details of both sides’ arguments.
“This is too important for voters to base their decisions on simple campaign slogans,” according to Fisher.
Ohio’s 360,000 public employees who teach our children and protect our communities deserve to be fairly treated, according to Fisher, but so too do the 4.3 million private sector workers plus farmers, retirees, small business owners and others who pay the costs of local government.
“Issue 2 returns balance to the collective bargaining process. Taxpayers will no longer be at a disadvantage while negotiating with their valued public employees,” Fisher said. “Ohio cannot get past its current fiscal challenges without addressing the reality that government costs too much,” he added. “Issue 2 is crucial to moving Ohio forward, which is why Ohio Farm Bureau is encouraging a ‘Yes’ vote on Issue 2.”