Watchdog 10 found a spike in security costs for the governor, but where the money is going remains murky.
Gov. John Kasich’s administration will not answer questions about the security costs on the record.
Guards protect Kasich’s every move, and it’s not cheap. Budget numbers now show it may be costing more.
The expense of protecting the governor, and the Bexley mansion where he has chosen not to live, is all part of a cost to taxpayers.
The proposed budget for next year contains a column called “security and investigations.”
It indicates what the state pays for investigations involving state property - and it includes protecting Capitol Square and dignitaries.
Under former Gov. Ted Strickland, the cost to protect the governor usually started out around $6 million.
But documents obtained by Watchdog 10 show that it would usually jump because Strickland would go back to the state controlling board and request extra money, typically around $3 to $4 million.
That means the total came in between $9 to $10 million a year.
Kasich did the same thing for his first couple of years in office, but that practice seems to be changing.
Kasich has asked for about $8.8 million for security and investigations up front; a cost that's budgeted to go up to $9.5 million by 2015.
The Kasich administration considers asking for the money upfront as being more honest about expected costs.
But because nobody from the governor's office would answer questions on the record, Watchdog 10 could not ask how Kasich plans to spend the money or whether he is leaving the option open to go back to the board for more money.
A Kasich spokesman made the no comment point abundantly clear. He told Watchdog 10 that "We don't comment on security, period.”
“There's got to be some reason they're trying to hide,” said Henry Eckhart.
Eckhart sits on the board for the government watchdog organization Common Cause Ohio, which favors transparency in government.
He said he could not believe no one would comment on security spending.
“They think they can run a $30 or $40 or $50 billion budget every year and not tell us certain items they pick out that they don't want to tell us about. Who do they think they are?” Eckhart said.
Eckhart said he worries that since Kasich won't explain just how he's spending those Investigation and Security dollars, it opens the door for abuse.
“That's the whole point. I mean, you've got to know what the government is doing with your money,” said Eckhart.
A statement sent to Watchdog 10 from a governor’s spokesman said that Kasich is ending the practice of “intentionally low-balling the size of the budget and later asking for more money.”
He called it, “truth in budgeting.”
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