JobsOhio Opening Books, Refunding Public Money


UPDATED: Tuesday March 19, 2013 7:08 PM

The war over JobsOhio turned ugly on Tuesday, with top Republicans firing at each other while Democrats piled on.

Ohio's private nonprofit job creation agency reluctantly turned over its private financial records to state Auditor Dave Yost to comply with a subpoena.

In a letter delivered to Yost, JobsOhio president John Miner wrote, "These records are being provided voluntarily, in the interest of transparency, and is not a concession by JobsOhio that your subpoenas are within the lawful authority of your office."

Gov. John Kasich, through a spokesman, offered a testier response.

"We support public review of JobsOhio's public funds and the release of its private-funds audit report, but the General Assembly must act quickly to prevent a chilling effect on job creation caused by a mistaken, overly-intrusive interpretation of the Auditor's duties."

Progress Ohio, a liberal organization, was quick to respond.

"I'm not sure it's chilling when the Governor didn't have his hands on the $100 million dollars, and he's bragging about how many jobs he's created," said Brian Rothenberg.

Progress Ohio, along with a libertarian group, is suing JobsOhio on constitutional grounds.

In his state of the state address last month, Kasich aggressively defended his new jobs agency.

"We created JobsOhio because the government agency that was created 50 years ago for the purpose of business development … became antiquated and slow," said Kasich.

But opponents say the concept of JobsOhio was flawed from the start.

Dale Butland from Innovation Ohio has questioned the salaries and expenses of JobsOhio. He cited $362,000 for furniture and $360,000 for office expenses that he said included the installation of a coffee bar.

Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder sided with Kasich Tuesday, calling Yost "erratic."

Yost says Ohio law gives him the right to review private financial records with ties to public funds.

The agency also announced it will refund the $1 million in public money that was used as the agency's start-up fund.  It will also return grant money it has received.

Kasich is now calling on lawmakers to rewrite portions of the law to prevent Yost from seeing all private finances.

JobsOhio received $1 million in taxpayer dollars as start-up money and has gone to market with a $1.5 billion bond sale backed by rights to Ohio's liquor business.

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