Dealing with pension benefits has become a hot-button issue in a number of states throughout the country and is also a major concern in Ohio. Since the beginning of the current General Assembly, House Republicans have been working with the state’s five public pension systems, which has included numerous hearings with stakeholders to determine the best path for Ohio to take.
Because this is such a complex issue that impacts more than 1.7 million Ohioans, the Ohio Retirement Study Council commissioned a study to analyze the situation. The conduction of this study received unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats in the House because we are aware of the importance of getting this right the first time. Simply settling on a quick solution could very likely result in greater problems down the road and would be irresponsible for the citizens of the state.
The study concluded what we all expected—that the bills proposed by the Ohio Senate earlier this year were a good start, but that further reform is necessary. Another aspect that makes Ohio unique is that it has five different public pension systems, as opposed to most states who have one or two. While this variety can be beneficial to public workers because it provides benefit packages that are tailored to their needs, it also presents the need for a wider array of reforms.
It can be easy to identify a problem and demand quick and immediate change, but it is important that legislators not hustle through a flawed reform package just so they can claim they “did something.”
A Plain Dealer article published just after the Senate passed five separate bills to tackle the pension liability problem says it all: “Ohio Senate passes public pension reforms in a rush.” As stated earlier, I believe — and most of my colleagues in the House also believe — the best course of action is to deliberately and carefully apply the results of the ORSC’s analysis to the Senate version in order to come up with the best plan possible.
Rep. Smith may be reached by calling (614) 466-1366, e-mailing District87@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Ryan Smith, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215.