Two weeks ago, I was pleased to return to Columbus to resume my legislative duties as state representative for the 81st House District following successful heart surgery in late March. Again, I am so thankful for the well-wishes of my constituents during my recovery. Due to my surgery, I was unable to cast votes on several pieces of legislation, but I believe it is important to inform the people of the district on my views.
March 30, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 5. The bill has received a great deal of attention throughout the state. However, I feel much of what has been said about SB 5 presents the legislation in a false light, with various misconceptions. Despite what opponents of the bill may argue, SB 5 is not an attempt to break the backs of the middle class. It instead is a necessary measure that restores balance between Ohio's public and private sectors.
For far too long, on the federal and state level, government has not operated in the same way that families and businesses have dealt with their budgets. The leadership in Ohio has failed, in many instances, to realistically address the state's budget issues. The most recent example is Ohio's $8 billion budget shortfall left by previous leaders.
While this left the Legislature facing truly difficult decisions, it also gave us an opportunity to focus on the realities of Ohio's economic situation. In short, we can't spend what we don't have. These are lessons families and businesses understand when balancing their checkbooks. Government needs to do the same, and we are moving in the right direction.
Nearly 30 years ago, the governor and Ohio Legislature, under heavy Democrat control, rammed through the public workers' bargaining bill. It created an unsustainable system in Ohio that, until now, leaders in the state have been unwilling to tackle.
Private-sector businesses succeed when their products and services outperform the competition. During these challenging economic times, meeting a manageable bottom line has proved to be a steep challenge. All businesses have been affected and, thus, private-sector workers have fallen on hard times.
Public-sector workers, on the other hand, are somewhat protected from these dire economic circumstances because their industry is not built on competition. Therefore, with no pressure to create a successful bottom line, operations tend to go along as usual. That, unfortunately, has been a large cause of the state's massive debt. The power of public-sector unions has led to the imbalance between the two sectors.
Senate Bill 5 is not an attack on teachers. If anything, the bill provides tools to hold teachers more accountable and make schools more efficient. Instituting a merit-based pay system, in place of the current "last hired, first fired" policy, will provide young, energetic educators a greater opportunity to make their mark while also rewarding our veteran teachers who are at the top of their field.
As a legislator, it is my duty to make decisions that benefit the majority of the constituents I represent and that lead to future economic prosperity. It is time to get Ohio's debt under control or the state's economy will get worse before it gets better. The decisions that have been made to balance the budget are a good first step in getting Ohio back on solid economic footing. By restoring balance between public workers and the citizens who pay them, Senate Bill 5 represents a much needed step as well.