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Monday, December 05, 2011

Ohio Lawmakers Scratch Themselves From Double-Dip Ban: New GOP Pension Reform Plan Targets Teachers, Cops, Firefighters

Ohio Lawmakers Exempted From State Pension Reform Measure
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A new Republican-sponsored bill to eliminate "double dipping" in Ohio's state pension programs contains a loophole that exempts elected officials from the proposed ban.  The Republicans go after state workers -- but not themselves.  In other words, legislators could double dip even if the bill becomes law.  House Bill 388 was filed last week by State Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, a lawmaker who clearly knows how to get around barriers.  Damschorder was  term-limited out of the House in 2003 after 8 years in office -- he sat out 8 years and is back in office.  After filing the bill, Damschroder told reporters a pension is supposed to replace a paycheck.  But that's not in the fine print.

"Double dipping" is shorthand for a practice that is common in state government -- a person retires to collect their state pension but doesn't leave government work.  A double dipper is a worker who gets both a pension and a paycheck from OPERS (public employees) or STRS (teachers) or the other state pension systems.  About 32,000 public employees in Ohio who are still working in government jobs collected more than $1 billion in state pension checks last year. They are the double dippers.  And Damschroder's boss in the Ohio House is Speaker Bill Batchelder, a double dipper from Medina County who gets a $90,000-plus legislative salary along with a $100,000 a year state pension.

The caption on Damschroder's bill on the legislative website reads like double dipping is going to be ended for all:

"H. B. No. 388-Representative Damschroder.
Cosponsors: Representatives Thompson, Pelanda.
To amend sections 145.01, 145.191, 145.38, 145.384, 145.471, 145.473,
145.58, 145.82, 742.26, 3307.35, 3307.352, 3309.341, 3309.344, and 3501.13;
to enact sections 145.386, 742.261, 3307.354, and 3309.346; and to repeal
section 5505.161 of the Revised Code to suspend, during the period of
employment, the retirement benefit of a public retirement system retiree who
returns to public employment."

But the actual wording of HB 388 specifies the ban applies only to workers and not anyone holding an elected office, i.e. members of the Ohio General Assembly.  (The Daily Bellwether has enlarged the key words granting the exemption.):

c. 145.01.  As used in this chapter:
(A) "Public employee" means:
(1) Any person holding an office, not elective, under the state or any county, township, municipal corporation, park district, conservancy district, sanitary district, health district, metropolitan housing authority, state retirement board, Ohio historical society, public library, county law library, union cemetery, joint hospital, institutional commissary, state university, or board, bureau, commission, council, committee, authority, or administrative body as the same are, or have been, created by action of the general assembly or by the legislative authority of any of the units of local government named in division (A)(1) of this section, or employed and paid in whole or in part by the state or any of the authorities named in division (A)(1) of this section in any capacity not covered by section 742.01, 3307.01, 3309.01, or 5505.01 of the Revised Code.

There are arguments in support of double-dipping, and attempts to eliminate the practice have flopped over the years.  School systems and local governments contend experienced employees -- especially superintendents and principals -- can be difficult to find and hire. Sometimes re-hiring a retired worker is less costly.  And workers who collect their pension while staying on the job argue the money is theirs -- they paid into the state pension system for years and ought to be able to collect what's coming.

[UPDATE 1:10 p.m -- Progress Ohio characterizes the GOP pension reform bill as "Hyprocrisy Now!" because legislators are excluded from the double dipping ban.]


  1. If the lawmakers want to ban double dipping,It should include everyone including them to be fair.

  2. Even if one is opposed to "double-dipping", this bill should not apply to part-time workers like substitute teachers or part-time coaches. These people contribute much while collecting little. Why should they need to forgo their pensions in order to help out their local communities in this way? Other states apply laws like this only to those who work more than 20 hrs./week or so.

    1. Gerry G. makes a great point. It is hard to get good sub teachers and coaches now. If you eliminate retirees it will be much worse and students will suffer as a result. School districts save hundreds of thousands of $ by rehiring teachers at a lower salary. How do they recover that money if your bill passes Rep. Damschroder?

  3. On its face, this bill should include everyone elected or not. If our elected officials do not want it to include them, then this bill is faulty. Last time I checked, the constitution applies to everyone, not for certain classes. As written, it appears our elected officials are a protected class. What say you Mr. Batchelder?