Pension reform ...

The phrase "pension reform" has received something of a black eye in recent years because of the fights to do just that in Ohio and Wisconsin by the respective state governments. Both attempts produced spirited protests -- primarily from unions -- in each state's capital city.

But public pension reform -- like it or not -- has become a necessity in more places than Ohio and Wisconsin thanks to tougher financial times, and long-term obligations which threaten to bankrupt some governments.

The pension reform that was approved by the Illinois State Legislature this week is part of that national story, and one that was much needed. In Illinois, the state's unfunded pension obligations are about $100 billion, according to Reuters.

This has contributed to a reduction in Illinois state government's bond rating, which has an expensive impact on what it costs the state to borrow money. In fact, the state's credit rating in January became the worst among the 50 states, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Reducing long-promised financial benefits to public sector workers after retirement certainly is not easy. And unions have promised a predictable court fight in Illinois, but the alternative there -- and in other locations -- is a much more disastrous financial situation for the responsible government, its citizens and its taxpayers.

FitzGerald's choice

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald would like to be governor, but his first major campaign decision is terribly flawed.

Of all the Democratic politicians in the state to choose as his running mate, FitzGerald picked one who not only owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal taxes, but has been less than transparent in publicly detailing those debts.

When state Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati was announced as FitzGerald's pick for lieutenant governor, the campaign acknowledged that Kearney and his wife, Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, owe $84,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

It didn't mention that he also owes the state of Ohio -- for which Kearney would like to be the No. 2 executive, influencing tax policy among other things -- more than $85,000.

Even if there are more tax revelations in store about Kearney, the public already knows what it needs to know about his business acumen and managerial skill: He racked up major tax debt and blames it on former business associates.

His credibility suffers even more when he attempts to dodge responsibility for the media company that owes much of the tax debt, Sesh Communications.

What makes this spectacle especially damaging is that Democrats have spent months pounding on state GOP Chairman Matt Borges for his tax debt to the IRS.

The only thing less confidence-inspiring than Kearney's handling of this embarrassment is FitzGerald's poor judgment in choosing to share the ticket with him.

The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio's gun laws

In the days and weeks since a proposal to change Ohio's self-defense laws was offered, both sides of the debate made strong, impassioned pleas for and against the changes. Although some of the arguments against what some call the "stand your ground" provision were admittedly over-the-top, we believe the current law balances the rights of both gun owners and people who choose not to legally arm themselves.

Under current law, Ohioans do not need to retreat before using force if they are lawfully in their homes, vehicles or the vehicle of an immediate family member. You don't have to retreat to defend yourself, but you don't get to run outside the house and shoot an intruder in the back either.

The change would expand the circumstances where the use of force trumps the duty to retreat to public settings, such as stores and streets.

But we've not seen a wealth of evidence to suggest law-abiding citizens are being charged, and convicted, when they have defended themselves in public situations. Ultimately, the issue begs the question: Is the change essential to gun rights in Ohio?

We don't believe it is. The Fraternal Order of Police agrees, and opposes the stand your ground provision for solid reasons. There is no outcry from the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association to clarify the law. They also oppose the change -- and have from the beginning.

The proper balance exists in current law and should remain, unchanged.

The Advocate

Newark, Ohio

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