2008-08-13 / Opinion

Other Editors Say...

Strickland's Challenge

The governor should not discount his power to shape the outcome of sick-day battle.

Ted Strickland, Ohio governor, knows that the sick-day mandate proposed for the November ballot would be terrible for business and job creation in Ohio. He has acknowledged as much.

That's why his action on the issue will be one of the most profound tests of his leadership.

On Tuesday, a union-led coalition submitted petitions to the Ohio secretary of state to add the Ohio Healthy Families Act to the ballot. If voters approve it, all companies of 25 or more full-time employees will be required to provide seven paid sick days a year to their workers.

Ohio, which ranks 47th out of 50 states for job creation, cannot stand another job killer, yet here it is. This is an enormously expensive, complicated mandate. If it passes, Ohio would be the only state in the nation that mandates sick leave. That would be like a neon sign flashing to the global marketplace: Don't bring your businesses and jobs here. Take them next door to Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia or Pennsylvania.

Not only would employers have to endure the cost and loss of productivity of seven days of paid sick time, their employees could take it in onehour increments or the smallest increment in which the employer tracks other leave time. This would be a record-keeping nightmare, especially for small businesses.

Employees also don't have to give notice for the time they take and they can't be disciplined under the act for taking sick time. Such provisions make the plan ripe for abuse.

Given the cost of paid time off and the onerous record-keeping, some businesses probably will decide that they need only 24 employees. Worse, businesses that aren't chained geographically to Ohio will take their operations elsewhere. For example, phone centers, which employ thousands, easily can move their operations out of state. Some businesses could pay for the sick days by reducing other benefits.

Strickland knows the havoc that this measure will wreak on Ohio's economy- and on his watch. Going into the weekend, he was using his considerable influence to broker a compromise to head off the ballot issue and lobbying labor, business, and legislative leaders not to draw lines in the sand before seeing what results.

But speaking to newspaper editorial boards on Friday, Strickland said he believes that if a compromise fails and the issue goes to the ballot, it will pass.

Given that view, it's understandable that the governor would prefer to ease Ohio through this crisis with a compromise. But even a compromise still could leave Ohio as the only state that has a mandated sick-day statute, with all the harm to economic development and job growth that would result.

The Dispatch respectfully disagrees with the governor that passage of the issue is a slamdunk. Strickland is underestimating his power to shape the outcome. If he and the lieutenant governor line up the other leaders of the Democratic Party and join with Republican leadership and the business community to tell voters that the sick-day mandate would be disastrous for them and their state's economy, voters will listen.- Columbus Dispatch

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