COLUMBUS (WKRC) - Similar to Kentucky lawmakers sneaking a pension bill in a sewer measure earlier this year, Ohio lawmakers gave themselves a pay raise by sneaking it into a last-minute measure increasing benefits for spouses and children of fallen first responders.
Around midnight on Thursday, the Ohio legislature voted to increase benefits for surviving spouses and children of those fallen first responders.
"I want the survivors to get anything they are due," Cincinnati FOP President Dan Hils said. "I want them taken care of as much as possible."
State Representative Tom Brinkman (R-Mt. Lookout) is on the committee that took up the bill.
"We were hearing from police and fire widows who were looking at Janaury as a big deadline as for as getting medical care and things like that," Brinkman said.
In the rush to get bills passed before the end of the year and the end of the General Assembly session, legislative leaders combined that measure with one to benefit themselves - a pay raise.
Senate Bill 296 gives a pay increase to state and local leaders from the governor down to legislators, judges and county officials, as well as improved survivor benefits for the families of first responders.
"We're talking about people who put their lives on the line for others and this should have been a clean bill rather than one which includes pay raises for politicians," Hils said.
Brinkman, one of the most fiscally conservative legislators in the state, voted for the combined measure, saying most of the public officials covered by the raise have not seen their pay go up in 11 years.
"Everybody yells at you, 'run government like a business,'" Brinkman said. "Well, businesses do give raises. You look at Cincinnati Public School teachers, they've gotten five to six raises the past 11 years. You want good people, you have to be paying something that makes it worthwhile."
If Gov. John Kasich decides to veto the combined bill, there are enough votes to override it.
Ohio lawmakers currently make about $61,000 a year. The law increases that gradually over the next decade to about $73,000 in 2028.