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House Lawmakers: Liquor Money to JobsOhio Is Private, Can't Be Audited By State

Lawmakers in the House say they've cleared up a controversy over Gov. Kasich’s job-creating program – whether the auditor can audit the operating funds in JobsOhio, as he says he can, or whether that money is private.

The amendment blocking the state auditor from auditing the $100 million that JobsOhio will receive from the state’s liquor profits was introduced at a contentious committee hearing – its first and only one. Auditor David Yost had asked committee members to delay a vote, and Democrats and Republicans sparred over it, but it sailed through and was on the floor hours later. Rep. Ron Maag of Lebanon told the House it protects JobsOhio to continue to spark economic growth, such as the 92,000 jobs he says it’s created or retained in the last 15 months.

“It reconfirms the legislature’s intent for JobsOhio to be private and transparent. It also ensures JobsOhio will continue to succeed,” says Maag.

Maag said the bill clarifies that those revenues are not public money because JobsOhio paid that money back. But Democrats were still smarting over the committee hearing and were ready to fight. Matt Lundy is from Elyria, and he said the bill isn’t about transparency – it’s about secrecy, which he said makes the public suspicious.

“You know, if you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid of the public’s right to know how public dollars are being spent by JobsOhio? Now, can any of you stand before your constituents and say that some public money should be excluded from state audit? I’d love to be in the room when you give that speech,” says Lundy.

After conservative Republican Ron Young of Lake County spoke in support of the bill, Democrat John Carney of Columbus fired back.

“It’s particularly humorous to me that we have a member of the Tea Party standing up saying what we need to do is shield the public’s ability to look at how public money is being spent," says Carney.  "This is outrageous, and the people in this General Assembly should be outraged by what we’re doing today.”

Republican Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon on northwest Ohio blasted comments he heard from Democrats as “dangerous”.

“For those who run for office, who are going to run for office, to continue to create a bad environment by making claims, using such words as ‘coverup’, ‘hiding overtly’ – ladies and gentlemen, these are outrageous comments made on the floor today,” says Wachtmann.

Democrat Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati recalled several failed attempts to bring JobsOhio executives to testify before the House Finance Committee, saying this debate was now not a dialogue but – using her word – a monologue. That committee’s Republican chair Ron Amstutz said politics has made it not a dialogue but a diatribe. In the end, two Democrats from Cleveland – John Barnes and Bill Patmon – joined all Republicans in supporting the measure, which now moves to the Senate. A spokesperson for auditor David Yost, who had asked for a delay, says the auditor is working to analyze the amendment, which he didn’t see until after it went before the committee before the vote.