Today, the latest development in the slow-motion train wreck that is JobsOhio was the sudden departure of its architect and Chief Investment Officer, Mark Kvamme.
Kvamme throws in the towel after a stinging rebuke from the Ohio Supreme Court, which last week refused to sign off on the legality of the approach Kvamme and Governor Kasich had proposed to fund JobsOhio. Because of lingering questions about the constitutionality of transferring control of the state’s future liquor profits, the bond market has been unwilling to provide the $1.4 billion in start-up funds that JobsOhio and Kvamme were counting on to use to attract business and create jobs.
Without that funding, JobsOhio has no pile of cash to use as an incentive for job creation. They’re barely able to continue to operate at all, having fully exhausted a $1 million cash infusion provided by the taxpayers in the last state budget. They have a small contract with the State’s Development Services Agency to perform administrative functions previously carried out by the Department, but that can do little more than pay their salaries.
For more than a year, JobsOhio has been allowed to operate as a zombie agency, plodding along as a middleman between true economic development practitioners at the local level and officials at the state who control the purse strings from grants, loans and tax incentives. It has no resources of its own.
Mark Kvamme signed up to run a $1 billion investment enterprise and instead he’s facing a bond market too skittish about JobsOhio’s dubious legal status to engage. He saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship.
Ohio taxpayers should follow suit and dismantle JobsOhio. If Kasich wants to use liquor profits as a funding stream for job creation, he can do it within the context of a state agency without the courts blinking an eye. But to infuse JobsOhio with another round of taxpayer funding without any evidence that it has a path to legal viability would be malpractice.