In the wake of the defeat of Issue 2 last week, it is important to raise the question, what now?
After all, it's not like the problem of what to do with strained local government budgets is simply going to vanish. Tough choices that would have been difficult even if some of the reforms included as part of Issue 2 passed are going to be even tougher now.
Recent news in the Columbus Dispatch regarding the Franklin County budget reinforces this,
"Nearly $25 million worth of those cuts will occur in service-agency programs, such as welfare and child and elder care, which are funded mainly through federal and state aid. The county's operating budget will bear the brunt of the rest of the cuts, about $7.3 million...
...But Brown has a budget battle on his hands with Sheriff Zach Scott. The recently appointed sheriff is requesting $13 million more for next year, calling the $85 million that commissioners set for his office this year "unrealistic." Scott wants to use the additional money to beef up SWAT, court security and investigations operations.
Brown wants Scott to reduce his staff from 848 full-time employees to 842.5 through attrition to keep his budget at about $85 million.
Scott's office was almost $9.4 million over budget this year, putting the county about $200,000 over budget for the year. About 28.5 percent of the county's operating budget will be dedicated to sheriff's operations next year, according to Brown's recommendations."
It's not just Columbus either. Westerville City Schools are looking at draconian cuts due to the failure of its combo property tax/income tax levy on Election Night,
"Although the school board has yet to act on any cuts, the levy's failure likely will mean the loss of hundreds of jobs, all extracurricular activities, elective classes and special programs.
In September, administrators presented the board with $19 million in potential cuts they said would take the district to near state-minimum levels of service.
These included 204 teaching positions, eliminating physical education and arts programs at the elementary and middle school levels, cutting elective courses and foreign languages at the high school level and reducing the number of guidance counselors, media specialists, high school deans and intervention teachers."
So let's recap what options are available to deal with local fiscal crises in Ohio:
1) government worker compensation reform, which has largely been taken off the table as a result of the defeat of Issue 2;
2) raise taxes, also seemingly taken off the table as most new tax levies were defeated on Election Night;
3) program cuts;
4) consolidation; and
People can quibble about this all they want. But the above makes it clear that there are going to be large program cuts and layoffs. People can argue that there will be some sort of bargain that will mix and match all of the options mentioned so that the pain is "evenly distributed." That is always a possibility, though it seems to ignore one little thing- HISTORY.
As the Buckeye Institute's President Matt Mayer has well articulated back in April long before Issue 2 even made it on the ballot,
"The debate in the General Assembly over the new collective-bargaining law made one thing clear: The unions and their Statehouse allies never had any intent of supporting any changes to the law it replaced -- the most pro-union law in the nation.
If they did, why didn't then-Gov. Ted Strickland, when his party controlled the Ohio House, move to reform the law? He could have done so on his own terms, but didn't.
In fact, if reform opponents truly believed that Ohio's previous collective-bargaining law needed changes, why did they make no effort since the law took effect in 1983 to amend it? Was there really no reform they were willing to make over the past 28 years?
They even opposed then-Gov. George Voinovich's fairly minor change to the law in 1995, when he proposed tweaking its definition of "inherent management rights?"
So be prepared to see "program cuts" and "layoffs" emerge in countless ugly conversations in multiple counties, cities, and school districts across the state.
The die has been cast. Ohio has crossed the Rubicon, at least for now. These are the consequences of no reform. Time will tell if this is too high a price to be paid.