As a result of farmers’ longstanding efforts to develop Farm Bureau as an influential voice on public policy, Ohio leaders sought the organization’s input on one of the most heavily debated issues facing the state. Issue 2, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, will retain the reforms to public employee collective bargaining laws passed in March.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s (OFBF) board of trustees announced its endorsement of Issue 2 following extensive study and deliberation. Board members recognized the strong emotions on both sides of the issue, but believed it was the responsibility of leadership to make a recommendation to members.
Farm Bureau met with representatives of both Issue 2 campaigns, studied various reports, listened to member input and hosted the first debate between the Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 campaigns on its weekly public affairs radio program Town Hall Ohio. OFBF is urging members to give the issue the same level of scrutiny before casting their vote.
The debate is too important for voters to base their decisions on simple campaign slogans, according to Jack Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau’s executive vice president. OFBF will provide materials that will allow its members and the public to closely examine Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 and arrive at an informed conclusion. The organization will encourage Ohioans to carefully study the details of both sides’ arguments.
OFBF determined that Ohio taxpayers, families and communities would be best served by passage of Issue 2. Provisions of the issue are consistent with the policies established by Farm Bureau’s grassroots membership. 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.
“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,” he 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 their 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 nine 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 cost 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 non-government job can’t afford to just keep paying more,” Fisher said.
OFBF believes passage of Issue 2 will actually preserve public sector jobs and services by giving school boards, city councils and other local authorities more options to control costs other than lay-offs or firings. 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 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.”