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Republican legislative leaders side with Kasich over JobsOhio audit

Republican leadership in the General Assembly is presenting a united front against fellow Republican Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s decision to subpoena financial records for the state’s semi-private economic development agency.

Senate President Keith Faber, of Celina, and House Speaker William Batchelder, of Medina, issued a joint statement Friday that sides with Republican Gov. John Kasich against Yost, indicating the legislature is willing to pass a law that would clearly limit Yost’s access to JobsOhio’s financial records.

“The Speaker and I support the state auditor’s authority to review public funds, regardless of whether the recipient is public or private,” Faber said in a written statement. “That’s been the law in Ohio for many years. We also fully support the stringent accountability standards subjecting JobsOhio to periodic audit review by an accredited private sector firm. We simply don’t share the view that a government official can force a private entity to disclose private financial records, and we don’t believe the law supports that type of action, as it could have a devastating impact on Ohio’s economic development and job creation efforts. The law is clear, but we’re willing to take further steps to clarify it if necessary.”

Batchelder’s statement said: “President Faber and I always welcome input in the legislative process and appreciated the Auditor of State’s input during the passage of House Bill 1 in 2011, which established JobsOhio. House Bill 1 does not give the Auditor of State this type of authority over private entities, nor should it. Ultimately, the Legislature has clearly spoken in this area and we believe this proposed action is extremely harmful and disrespectful to the legislative process.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. John Patrick Carney, D-Columbus, introduced legislation on Friday that would give state auditors full access to JobsOhio’s records. Carney, whose name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for state auditor in 2014, appeared alongside Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern on Thursday to criticize Kasich and other Republicans for JobsOhio’s lack of transparency.

Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature created JobsOhio in February 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which had been the agency responsible for economic development in Ohio. Republicans set up JobsOhio so that it would not be subject to Ohio’s Sunshine laws.

Yost issued a subpoena for JobsOhio’s 2012 financial records last Wednesday following months of negotiations. The move set off a political spat between Yost and Kasich, who touts JobsOhio as one of his administration’s largest achievements, and mobilized Democrats to speak out.

Yost contends he should have access to JobsOhio’s complete financial records, including proceeds from a bond sale unwritten by liquor taxes and private donations. Kaisch says Yost should only see records directly pertaining to public grants that JobsOhio has received.

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