Last Wednesday, InnovationOhio issued a press release attacking the Bureau of Workers Compensation budget (which like ODOT’s budget is considered separate from the rest of the State’s budget) for including nearly $1 million in funding for the Workers Compensation Council, an agency that presently has no director or staff whatsoever.
As this is the legislative baby of Speaker Batchelder and other conservative Republicans in the House, InnovationOhio’s press release was immediately attacked by State Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) who attacked InnovationOhio was against “spending a few thousand dollars to protect injured workers.”
Which is, of course, hogwash. What Innovation Ohio opposed is spending nearly a million dollars on an agency that has had no staff, now has no director, and has updated its website to show any minutes of any meetings since January 2010, has been over a year since issuing its last annual report, and only has one bill analysis for the entire two-year term of the last General Assembly. This lead InnovationOhio to suggest that Wachtmann’s response actually raised even more questions that required the examination of the State Auditor.
Of course, this all occurred last week. The problem is before InnovationOhio said anything the House had already unanimously passed the BWC budget (HB 123) on March 23rd. The Senate had also already passed it 28-4 on April 6th, and the House again had agreed to some technical amendments made by the Senate on April 13th. So the bill was ready for Kasich to sign into law a full week before InnovationOhio raised the issue about the Workers Compensation Council, an issue the House and Senate Democrats concede had flown under their radar when they could have attempted to offer an amendment to do anything about it.
In their defense, between the rest of the State budget, the voter ID bill, SB 5, and ridiculous abortion bills, the legislature has just been overwhelmed. But the reality is that Kasich will still justify his failure to use his line-item veto to end a $1 million to an unmanned office by citing the unanimous vote in the House.
This morning, the Akron Beacon Journal’s editorial page urged Governor Kasich to consider using his line-item veto to defund the Workers Compensations Council:
It may be that the council has performed the work that its supporters claim. Still, the Columbus Dispatch reported that the council hasn’t met in 15 months. More, the Dispatch and the Daily News found little concrete indication of work the past year.
All of this is relevant now not because the fuss started with Innovation Ohio, a Columbus think tank led by a veteran of the Ted Strickland administration. Rather, the funding bill for the worker’s compensation bureau sits on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. The bill includes $923,000 for the Workers’ Compensation Council.
Is John Kasich, budget scourge, confident the sum will be well spent? Any doubt should lead to a line-item veto and time for the governor to find answers.
Last night, Governor Kasich held the private bill signing ceremony he promised, but denied, to the opponents of SB 5 and signed HB 123 into law. Governor Kasich did not use his line-item veto power to zero out funding for the BWC Council, a do-nothing agency with nearly $1 million in appropriations and no staff or director. Kasich’s press secretary Rob Nichols instead said the Governor would leave it up to the legislature to get this do-nothing agency that has been plagued by scandal and unprecedented religious zeal staffed. An agency that the Speaker of House finally removed its director last week as stories about her waste and abuse resurfaced.
It’s odd to see the same Administration who seeks to defund a fully staffed and effective Ohio Consumers’ Counsel maintain the funding levels of a now totally unstaffed and historical ineffective Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Council.
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