Joshua Culling

Ohio's Largest Newspapers: Yes on Issue 2

Posted by Joshua Culling on Monday, October 31st, 2011, 12:47 PM PERMALINK

Issue 2 continues to receive a strong showing of support from Ohio's major newspapers, underscoring the fact that this is far from a partisan debate. It is about reforming Ohio's status quo, and the flood of newspaper endorsements confirms that the labor reforms in Senate Bill 5 are far from radical.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer's endorsement of Issue 2:

Ohio desperately needs to control the costs of government at all levels. It needs to send a clear message that the old, familiar ways of doing the public's business have to change.

In schools, the emphasis has to be on the progress of children, not the comfort of adults. In city halls and county offices, the impact on those who pay the bills -- and the sheer magnitude of those bills -- must be paramount.

The Columbus Dispatch on the lack of partisanship inherent to this fight:

Despite the insistence of opponents, the effort to reform Ohio’s out-of-balance collective-bargaining law is not an expression of disrespect for or dissatisfaction with Ohio teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees. It is a much-needed attempt to restore control over public spending to the public officials elected to exercise that control.

It does not assert that public employees are worth less than the compensation they’re receiving, only that the compensation has grown faster than the public’s ability to pay for it.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on similar labor reforms pushed by prominent Democrats:

Voters are demanding reforms from their elected officials. Ohio's SB 5, like similar measures in Wisconsin and elsewhere, is the response to that. And it's not just in states where Republicans control the statehouse and governor's mansion. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has been pushing to trim public-employee agreements, unsettling his allies. The same with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who's taken union heat for trying to weed out costly labor rules.

If Ohio voters approve Issue 2, we want schools and local governments to take full advantage of this added flexibility and deliver for taxpayers. We want to see innovation, savings and efficiency. We expect results.

In addition to the state’s three largest papers, the Canton Repository, Findlay Courier, Wheeling Intelligencer and Warren Tribune-Chronicle have all come out in support of Issue 2. See other statewide endorsements at Building a Better Ohio.


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Expect Independents to Support Ohio's Issue 2

Posted by Joshua Culling on Monday, October 31st, 2011, 12:16 PM PERMALINK

In eight days, Ohio voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of Senate Bill 5, which institutes reasonable reforms in the way public employees are compensated. A yes vote on Issue 2 is a vote to keep the law in place.

Gov. John Kasich signed SB 5 into law last March, recognizing the need for local government flexibility in dealing with widespread budget pressures. By requiring government workers to pay a portion of their health and retirement benefits and instituting a system of compensation based on merit, local governments are able to avoid the layoffs and tax increases that have become commonplace in recent years.

Of course, the left has run a well-funded and intense smear campaign largely funded out of union headquarters in Washington, D.C. They have relied on the politics of fear to frame this initiative as an assault on police, fire fighters and teachers. And to wit, recent public polling data suggests the unions are winning: Last week’s Quinnipiac poll had Ohioans supporting repeal 57-32. Clearly $30 million goes a long way in an off-year election.

But this has always been a race for the independent vote, and the “silent majority” will break toward a yes vote in the final week before Election Day. The major tenets of SB 5 remain consistently popular across the political spectrum, and especially with self-identified independent voters:

  • Voters support requiring public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health insurance costs by a 60-33 margin.
  • Voters support requiring public employees to contribute at least 10 percent of their wages toward their pensions by a 57-34 margin.
  • Voters support determining pay increases based on merit rather than seniority by a 49-40 margin.

And those voters who do not identify with either major party are not loudly voicing their opinions either way, for a few reasons. The most prominent is fear of union retribution. The small business owner that supports SB 5 as a hedge against property tax increases probably isn’t putting up a sign for fear of a union-backed boycott. The teacher who supports merit pay as a way to be fairly compensated for hard work doesn’t dare oppose Ohio’s powerful teachers union. And the school administrators who need flexibility in balancing their budgets know that going toe-to-toe with unions could have catastrophic consequences should SB 5 be repealed.

But perhaps more importantly, the average Ohio family doesn’t have the luxury of a paid day off to take a bus to Columbus to scream and wave a sign in support of SB 5. Nor should they be expected to be so passionate. At the heart of the SB 5 debate is the conflict of concentrated benefits with dispersed costs. Of course the unions are going to spend $30 million on a hysterical smear campaign to oppose a very moderate piece of legislation. Automatic pay increases, “free” benefits and insulation from reform are their lifeblood. The average Ohioan just has to pay a little bit more in local property taxes and state income taxes, but unionized government employees experience an absolute windfall.

But at the end of the day, taxpayers know that the status quo is broken at both the state and local levels. And they are aware, in the words of the Buckeye Institute, that the Grand Bargain is dead. No longer do government workers take less pay but better benefits for the opportunity to perform a public service. Now they get great benefits and a bigger paycheck than the rest of us, with nearly no accountability to those of us paying the bills.

The left knows that Quinnipiac’s 57-32 situation isn’t going to happen next Tuesday. In fact, a recent internal labor memo warns that a blowout is not “remotely possible” and that Quinnipiac’s polling language is misleading. The same day the Democratic Governors Association dropped an emergency $150,000 check on the pro-repeal coalition.

I think internal polling is slowly showing independents breaking toward a yes vote, as it should. This is not a partisan issue or an attack on Ohio public workers, most of whom do honorable and effective work. It is rather an attempt to curtail the power of their unions, who have effectively bankrupted Ohio’s local governments with inflexible demands and outsized political influence. A yes vote on Issue 2 is a vote for a sustainable government sector in Ohio.

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Silent Majority Prevails Over Big Labor in Wisconsin

Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 6:46 AM PERMALINK

Organized labor and the professional left didn't do a very good job of controlling expectations leading into last night's recall elections in Wisconsin. The conventional wisdom held that Democrats would pick off at least three of the six Republican incumbents eligible for recall, enough to flip control of the upper chamber. This would deal a severe blow to Gov. Scott Walker and the labor reform movement across the country.

That didn't happen.

Republicans successfully defended four seats, including all three toss-ups. In the end, Democrats were only able to recall Sen. Dan Kapanke, who represented a very blue district, and Sen. Randy Hopper, whose personal problems sunk his campaign. Republicans are assured an enduring Senate majority, with the chance to regain a seat or two next week when two Democrat incumbents are subject to recall elections.

If you were on Twitter last night gleefully imbibing in left-wing meltdowns 140 characters at a time, as I was, you saw a desperate talking point begin to emerge: A two-seat pickup is a win for Democrats because these incumbents were strong enough to win in Wisconsin despite a 2008 Democratic landslide in the state. This is nonsense. Both Hopper and Kapanke won narrowly in 2008 against weak opponents. Hopper's loss last night had nothing to do with his voting record, but his personal problems. And while Republicans were initially hopeful that Kapanke's considerable political skills could give him a chance, the reality that he represented a district where President Obama took a remarkable 61 percent of the vote was too much to overcome. This is akin to re-running the 2008 presidential election in Indiana and North Carolina and declaring a shocking upset for the Republican.

I don't have to spin the results at all to make it clear that this was an absolute victory for Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers. Nor is it a stretch to say this breathes new life into the labor reform movement at the state level. You think John Kasich, Shannon Jones and the pro-SB 5 groups in Ohio are walking with a spring in their step this morning? Absolutely. Because the silent majority - those that were too busy working, raising families and paying bills to bus down to the Capitol building for a political rally - they vote. And they tend to agree that asking public employees to pay for a very modest share of their benefits package is not ridiculous. They would probably tell you that spiraling labor costs are worrisome, as are the debt incurred and tax increases imposed to pay for them.

When the dust settles next week after two incumbent Democrats are subjected to recall, we'll know the exact makeup of the Wisconsin Senate. But we know now for sure that millions of dollars and a laundry list of scare tactics wasn't enough to bring down Scott Walker's agenda. May Republican governors across the country take note.

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Shocker: Carlson Commission Calls for Massive Tax Hikes in Minnesota

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, July 7th, 2011, 4:58 PM PERMALINK

Yesterday in the Daily Caller I wrote about the "third way" budget commission created in Minnesota at the behest of Gov. Mark Dayton, and how it closely mirrors the failed Simpson-Bowles commission in D.C.:

News this week suggests that Minnesota will begin to mirror Washington, D.C. even more closely. With the blessing of Gov. Dayton, an allegedly “bipartisan commission” will be created to study Minnesota’s budget crisis and suggest solutions. We’ve seen this movie before, most recently when President Obama created the Simpson-Bowles commission to make recommendations on how to solve America’s debt crisis. Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, was the token tax-hiking Republican handpicked to put GOP fingerprints on a multi-trillion dollar tax increase.
It seemed all but certain that the commission would recommend a huge tax increase, just like its big brother on the federal level:
The useful idiot in Minnesota’s iteration is former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, who joined former presidential candidate Walter Mondale in creating the commission. In Carlson’s case, the “former” qualifier applies both to his status as governor and as a Republican. He endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election and has backed a long list of Democrats for office in recent years.
Make no mistake about it: Carlson’s commission will propose massive tax increases to balance Minnesota’s budget. This is why Gov. Dayton supports the commission’s participation in this academic exercise. It’s the same reason why Alan Simpson is Barack Obama’s favorite Republican: He makes liberal exploitation of the concept of bipartisanship possible.
Fast forward to today, and that's exactly what happened. The commission released its recommendations today, which included $1.4 billion in tax increases. Under the plan, income taxes increase for everyone, as do taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Cue the media response: "Even prominent Republican Arne Carlson agrees that more revenues are needed to solve the current budget crisis."
Try telling that to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers. They passed a budget that balances the state budget without raising taxes. Rather than engaging in political gamesmanship and starting their side of the negotiations with an artificially low spending level, they drafted and passed budget bills that spend the amount of money the state can afford. Gov. Dayton, on the other hand, started with a massive spending package approaching $40 billion and has slowly come down as he realized the legislature won't write him a blank check.
This is not Dayton compromising and Republicans being stubborn. There is no room for compromise. Republican Leadership produced a realistic budget that spends what the state can afford while Dayton would rather shut down state government than forego tax hikes. It isn't clear what the governor's legislative agenda is, other than to spend more money than the state has on hand for the sake of doing so.
Let's not be fooled by liberal Arne Carlson's silly budget commission. Minnesota's budget problems have been identified and solutions proposed. This is a matter of Republicans holding the line until Dayton figures out that a tax increase won't be happening in Minnesota this year.

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ATR: Ohio Budget a Victory for the Middle Class

Posted by Joshua Culling on Friday, July 1st, 2011, 11:12 AM PERMALINK


Today Americans for Tax Reform commends Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly for their leadership in bringing the state budget into balance without tax increases. This historic budget eliminates Ohio’s harmful estate tax, which has driven productive citizens across state lines for decades. Columbus serves as a model for Washington, D.C., where President Obama and Senate Democrats have refused to take tax increases off the table to grapple with America’s untenable overspending problem.

Gov. Kasich is one of 13 governors who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise never to raise taxes. In signing the state budget last night, he has kept that important commitment.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“As Ohioans prepare to commemorate the Fourth of July this weekend, they can also celebrate a new fiscal year, where their overall tax burden will be reduced. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Gov. Kasich, Speaker Batchelder and President Niehaus, Ohio’s $8 billion overspending problem has been eliminated without harmful tax increases. This is a new day for the Buckeye State.

“The elimination of Ohio’s onerous death tax is a major step forward for the state’s economy. For decades, Ohioans of all income levels have fled the state to avoid this excessive added layer of taxation. Now small business owners, family farmers and middle class taxpayers will be encouraged to stay home to create jobs and grow the economy.

“In addition to the Governor, Speaker and Senate President, I commend Taxpayer Protection Caucus Chairs Rep. John Adams and Sen. Shannon Jones for their leadership in advocating on behalf of taxpayers in their respective chambers, and Treasurer Josh Mandel for his leadership in support of death tax repeal. Together they have given Ohioans plenty to celebrate on this holiday weekend.”

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Norquist to Minnesota Republicans: Don't Go Wobbly

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, June 30th, 2011, 9:43 AM PERMALINK

As a budget deadline looms in Minnesota, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) applauded legislative Republicans today for their leadership in opposing Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed billions of dollars in tax increases and urged the legislature to stand strong. While Republicans have passed a balanced budget that cuts spending and holds the line on taxes, Gov. Dayton is determined to spend more than the state collects, financed by a massive tax increase.

As pressure builds on Republicans to submit to Dayton’s tax hiking predilections, ATR urges them to follow the lead of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaker John Boehner and his caucus have stood in lockstep as a barrier against President Obama’s plans for massive tax increases to “solve the debt and deficit crisis.” This is a fallacy. Until taxes are taken off the table, sustainable spending cuts are not achievable.

As Dayton’s income tax increase has been soundly rejected by the legislature and the voting public, more politically expedient tax hikes will undoubtedly be proposed. Most likely are lifestyle taxes, which target alcohol, tobacco and sugary drinks. Democrats use a number of gimmicks to push these social engineering tax increases, including calling them “impact fees,” “revenue enhancements,” or anything else that tries to distract from the fact that they are nothing more than painful tax increases in the middle of a tenuous economic recovery.

ATR urges Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, Assembly Speaker Kurt Zellers and all members of the majority to see through these gimmicks and stand up to liberal Gov. Dayton.

“I applaud Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature for fiercely opposing Gov. Dayton’s tax hike obsession,” said ATR President Grover Norquist, “but the battle is not yet over. As the Democrats ramp up their doom and gloom government shutdown rhetoric, I urge you to stand tall on behalf of your constituents.”

“Republicans have already passed nine budget bills this year. Any blame for an impasse lays at the feet of Gov. Dayton, who would rather shut the government down than sign a budget that cuts spending without raising taxes nearly $2 billion,” Norquist continued. “A protracted standoff between liberal California Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Republicans recently ended with a budget free of tax increases and a victory for taxpayers. With the leadership of Leader Koch and Speaker Zellers, I am confident we will celebrate the same outcome in Minnesota.

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ATR Applauds Christie Pension Reform

Posted by Joshua Culling on Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 3:34 PM PERMALINK


Today, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) applauded Governor Chris Christie’s momentous pension and benefits reform in New Jersey. Gov. Christie, along with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) have reached a bipartisan agreement to return the state pension system to solvency.

The pension reform bill cleared the Democratic state legislature on a bipartisan vote and will be signed today. Under the new law, public employees will pay for a larger share of their own benefits and cost-of-living adjustments will be frozen. State employees ability to collectively bargain for benefits, a key driver of the state’s budget woes, is suspended. These bold but necessary changes are key reforms that will return New Jersey to fiscal sanity. Gov. Christie campaigned on the promise to reform the state’s broken public employee compensation structure, and today has delivered on that commitment.

New Jersey has chosen from a host of reforms embraced by other states to tackle their public employee compensation problems. Suspending some collective bargaining rights is a bipartisan solution that has been pursued by states like Massachusetts, Ohio and Wisconsin. New Jersey is also raising the retirement age and increasing the proportion of benefits paid for by the employees themselves. These changes are expected to save New Jersey $130-billion over 30 years and curb the state’s crushing unfunded liability problem.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“I commend Governor Christie as well as Democratic Leadership in the New Jersey Legislature on these momentous pension and benefit reforms. These commonsense solutions prove that overspending problems can and must be eradicated without tax increases. This is yet another notch in Christie’s belt toward ending the culture of big government in Trenton and restoring serious fiscal responsibility.

“First Christie helped pass a state budget which cut state spending over 8 percent and reduced New Jersey’s dependence on one-time federal bailouts. Now, he is continuing his push to reform state government by modernizing the way the state compensates its employees.

“The federal government would be wise to look to New Jersey for examples of how to balance the budget without destructive tax increases. This bipartisan solution provides a roadmap to Congress as well as to other states in search of solutions to enduring budget crises.”

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ATR Applauds Wisconsin Budget

Posted by Joshua Culling on Friday, June 17th, 2011, 11:43 AM PERMALINK

PDF Copy.

Today, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) applauded the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor Scott Walker (R) for crafting a state budget that eliminates a $3.6 billion overspending problem without raising taxes. By acting boldly on their mandate to reduce the size of government and cut taxes, Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature have taken another step to foster job creation and economic growth.

During his campaign for governor, Walker joined 24 Wisconsin legislators in signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment never to raise taxes. The state budget, which reduces Wisconsin’s net tax burden, makes good on that promise.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“I commend Scott Walker, Scott Fitzgerald and Jeff Fitzgerald for their leadership on behalf of Wisconsin taxpayers and job creators. This budget, which eliminates a $3.6 billion overspending problem while reducing Wisconsin’s tax burden, is yet another victory for fiscal commonsense over the budgetary recklessness that has preceded their tenure.

“First, Gov. Walker rejected an onslaught of federal money for ‘high-speed rail,’ recognizing that the strings attached by the Obama Administration would hamper Wisconsin’s ability to get its own affairs in order. Then, he reformed the collective bargaining process for public employees, allowing state and local governments the flexibility to confront their budget crises. And now he has pared back government intrusion into the private sector, paving the way for sustained job creation and economic growth.

“While President Obama and some in Congress are calling for massive tax increases in the name of deficit reduction, Wisconsin has taken a more prudent course. D.C. should take note: By taking tax increases off the table and getting government out of the way of private sector job creators, Wisconsin is once again open for business.”

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ATR Applauds Ohio Senate

Posted by Joshua Culling on Thursday, June 9th, 2011, 12:30 PM PERMALINK

Today Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) applauded the Ohio Senate for passing a balanced budget without raising taxes. As the budget bill heads to conference, ATR urges any compromise to include no tax increases while keeping death tax repeal intact in its current form.

The budget is a product of the promise Gov. John Kasich, Speaker Bill Batchelder and 23 state legislators made when they signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment never to raise taxes. This budget eliminates a $7.7 billion overspending problem without harmful tax hikes, restores the delayed income tax cut and eliminates the harmful death tax.

ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement:

“I applaud the Ohio Senate in joining with Gov. Kasich and the House to balance the state budget without tax increases. The elimination a $7.7 billion overspending problem while cutting taxes is truly historic for Ohio. And the elimination of the death tax – the nation’s most onerous at the state level – is key in reversing the outward migration that has plagued the Buckeye State for decades.

“President Obama will pay plenty of attention to Ohio in 2012, but perhaps he should take note of what is happening in the Buckeye State between election cycles. While D.C. Democrats refuse to even draft a budget, Kasich, Batchelder and Niehaus have eliminated a structural overspending problem in Ohio without a tax increase.

“Only when we begin to get government out of the way of the private sector, roll back onerous regulations and labor policies and reduce the state’s tax burden can Ohio get back on track. This budget is certainly a step in the right direction.”

[PDF Document]

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ATR Urges YES on Ohio Budget, Supports Proposed Improvements

Posted by Joshua Culling on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011, 12:41 PM PERMALINK

Next week the Ohio Senate will unveil it's proposed substitute budget bill, presumably building on the plans advanced by Gov. John Kasich and House Republicans, respectively. Kasich's budget proposal eliminates an $8 billion overspending problem with no tax increases. House Republicans advanced the ball slightly further by eliminating Ohio's onerous death tax, which Kasich supports.

The Senate now gets its crack at the budget writing process, and we expect no drastic or detrimental changes. Senate President Tom Niehaus has been instrumental thusfar in advancing a commonsense conservative agenda in Columbus, most notably through his support of Senate Bill 5. In a letter to the Senate yesterday, ATR President Grover Norquist urged the upper chamber to retain the House's death tax elimination. He also indicated ATR's support of two potential improvements to the budget that are being discussed:

If you have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a YES vote on HB 153 as it is currently written is compliant with that pledge.

That said, there are some proposals currently being discussed that could further improve this budget. ATR recommends adopting the following:

·        Apply the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) to gross casino income: the total amount wagered minus winnings returned. Amount wagered minus winnings returned is consistent with the federal definition of gross gaming revenue. It would also reduce the tax burden on Ohio’s newest crop of job creators while allowing the casino developments to proceed as planned.

·        Strengthen language on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to create a dedicated “partnership committee” within OBM and expand PPP opportunities beyond transportation. PPPs are an essential and innovative approach to infrastructure development bereft of tax increases. By creating a panel of experts to address PPPs, Ohio can bring more transparency and better performance to infrastructure development. And by extending PPP opportunities beyond only transportation projects, further efficiencies and savings to taxpayers can be achieved.

We look forward to a strong vote in the Senate for a balanced budget that cuts taxes for small businesses, family farms and the middle class. To see Grover's entire letter to the Ohio Senate, see below. For a PDF, click here.

May 24, 2010

Ohio Senate

Dear Legislator,

I write in strong support of House Bill 153, the proposed state budget. In keeping with the pledge Gov. John Kasich and 24 state legislators have made to their constituents never to raise taxes, it eliminates an $8 billion overspending problem while reducing the state’s overall tax burden. I urge you to vote yes.

This budget restores the delayed final year of the 2005 income tax cut and phases out Ohio’s onerous estate tax. It tackles politically difficult but necessary reforms in corrections and Medicaid. It is the beginning of the end of the big government mantra that has plagued Columbus over the past few decades.

If you have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a YES vote on HB 153 as it is currently written is compliant with that pledge.

That said, there are some proposals currently being discussed that could further improve this budget. ATR recommends adopting the following:

·        Apply the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) to gross casino income: the total amount wagered minus winnings returned. Amount wagered minus winnings returned is consistent with the federal definition of gross gaming revenue. It would also reduce the tax burden on Ohio’s newest crop of job creators while allowing the casino developments to proceed as planned.

·        Strengthen language on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to create a dedicated “partnership committee” within OBM and expand PPP opportunities beyond transportation. PPPs are an essential and innovative approach to infrastructure development bereft of tax increases. By creating a panel of experts to address PPPs, Ohio can bring more transparency and better performance to infrastructure development. And by extending PPP opportunities beyond only transportation projects, further efficiencies and savings to taxpayers can be achieved.

I strongly urge a yes vote on the budget, noting that the inclusion of Ohio’s estate tax repeal – the most punitive of its kind in the nation – is imperative to attracting investment, jobs and population. I also ask that you take into consideration the reforms listed above.

If you have any questions, please contact Ohio state affairs manager Joshua Culling at


Grover Norquist

CC: The Honorable John Kasich

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