Today the Ohio House passed and the Senate agreed to SB314, legislation that further reduces oversight of the state’s jobs programs and hands more unfettered power to Kasich Jobs Czar, Mark Kvamme. (votes at end of post)
Kvamme, we should remind you, is a California venture capitalist who moved to Ohio to help Kasich set up JobsOhio, his privatized economic development agency. Kvamme always seemed troubled by government work, speaking out against public records requirements and imaginary rules—none actually exist—he said would prevent him from eating or traveling in style:
There are also restrictions about travel and expenses in the public sector that we hopefully won’t have to deal with. If a CEO of a major company comes to Columbus, I (as a public official) can’t afford to take him out anywhere but Wendy’s. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Wendy’s, but I don’t know of a lot of CEOs who work that way.
No such restriction exists, but it didn’t stop legislators from rushing JobsOhio into law to allow Kvamme to do deals over a salmon steak.
Another thing Kvamme dislikes is oversight. JobsOhio legislation allows him to function out of a private corporation not subject to state open meetings or public records laws.
JobsOhio will lure companies to locate or expand in Ohio with a mix of cash awards and loans, grants and tax credits issued by the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD).
Prior to acting on deals proposed by JobsOhio, ODOD seeks input from two panels of outside experts. The Tax Credit Authority recommends corporate tax breaks, and the Development Financing Advisory Council (DFAC) weighs in on grants and loans.
Well, not anymore. DFAC, is eliminated by SB314.
JobsOhio backers insist DFAC is unnecessary because the Controlling Board—a body of six legislators and a Kasich appointee—signs off on awards. So instead of outside experts, a legislative committee—controlled 5-2 by the Governor’s political party—is the only review before millions in taxpayer funds are awarded. So, the only thing stopping Ohio from having its own Solyndra is Shannon Jones. What could go wrong with that?
Also thanks to SB314, Mark Kvamme as CIO of JobsOhio is now a member of the Tax Credit Authority. So the JobsOhio CIO gets to vote on whether to approve his own recommendations.
Kvamme’s addition to the Tax Credit Authority is explained by saying they needed an economic development expert. Really? You couldn’t find a single economic development expert in the state that isn’t also the guy whose work you’re supposed to be overseeing?
The words of a Department of Development spokeswoman really say it all (from Gongwer’s coverage of the House version of SB314):
“I don’t think the company and JobsOhio would make a recommendation unless it is a good deal that’s going to go through,” she said. “Under the current structure, business expansions really have been delayed due to the scheduling of those Tax Credit Authority meetings.”
Shorter ODOD: “The Tax Credit Authority is just a rubber stamp anyway, and will do whatever Mark Kvamme wants, but just in case we gave him a vote, too!” Because unaccountable bureaucrats that control billions of dollars of taxpayer money and the companies that want some of it will always make good decisions in the public interest. Nothing to see here, folks.
And that, my friends, is called oversight.
The final vote in the Senate was 30-1. Only Senator Skindell opposed the measure. In the House, 5 members voted against the bill: Reps. Carney, Foley, Hagan (Bob), Phillips and Ramos. Complete votes here.