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Toledo Legal News - News Republican state lawmaker challenges fellow legislators to return public pay increases

 

Putting his money where his mouth is - as the saying goes - a southwest Ohio lawmaker pledged recently to forgo the pay raise members of the previous session of the General Assembly of the Ohio Legislature approved for the elected body.

Yes, the 4 percent increase will automatically be figured into Union Township Rep. John Becker's paycheck, but the Republican's plan for the amount - nearly $155 a month - is to donate it to a useful, local cause.

For January, the beneficiary was the Cincinnati Nature Center in his home township in Clermont County, Becker said in a press release.

Becker challenged his peers and Senate counterparts to join him in the gesture not only the resulting goodwill but as a protest to the manner in which the legislation ordering the raise was passed.

"In order to give elected officials a pay increase, legislators shamelessly hid behind the widows and orphans of deceased police and firefighters who died in the line of duty," Becker said. "The General Assembly then had the further audacity to make it an emergency measure so that it could go into effect on Jan. 1. ...

"I voted no."

Senate Bill 296 was devised to revise the payments that surviving family members of police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty receive from the Ohio Public Safety Officers Death Benefit Fund. The legislation now allows the surviving spouses and children to participate in the health, dental and vision benefits offered to state employees as if the survivors were employees of this state.

An offending provision of SB 296's Public Official Compensation amendment called for the immediate pay raise for state office holders, plus another 4 percent increase next year and increases of 3 percent in 2021 and 1.75 percent from 2022 through 2028.

Raises also were extended to judges and all county and township officeholders statewide.

Then-Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill. The legislature, however, had the votes to override the veto and enact the measure.

Becker said he planned to donate the extra pay to a favorite cause at least through 2019.

He took every opportunity vote against pay increases for the Ohio General Assembly, the press release detailed.

"I think such changes to legislators' pay increases should be done with statistical analysis in an open and transparent manner, rather than waiting until after the election and convening a gutless, late-night, lame duck vote with no reasonable opportunity for public input on the provision," he said. "Once the research is complete, draft a bill based on the findings.

"Hold multiple public hearings, work it through the committee process, and have a robust floor debate before the vote."

If the bill receives favorable consideration from the House, Senate and governor, he said, voters have the option for a referendum or they can express their approval or displeasure on Election Day."

Becker previously authored and proffered the Average Wage Fully Uniform Law, or AWFUL, which would have tied General Assembly salaries to the state's median household income and the Consumer Price Index.

Filed House Bill 649, the measure would have meant a $6,600 pay cut for legislators this year.

He directed voters to check out the bill's path through the legislature and the roll call vote at www.legislature.ohio.gov.

KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer

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