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· June 3, 2011

Innovation Ohio having an impact

INNOVATION OHIO HAVING AN IMPACT Think Tank Notches Victories in Senate Version of Budget Bill Innovation Ohio is already having a big impact on public policy in the Buckeye State.  Since opening its doors on February 28, IO has produced a steady stream of studies, reports, legislative analyses and commentary that have received wide exposure in Ohio’s print and electronic media (see our “in the news” page). IO releases also are routinely highlighted on popular political blogs and websites, and several have generated supportive editorials or editorial mentions in Ohio’s largest daily newspapers, and frequently have been topics of discussion on Ohio television and radio talk shows. Perhaps the best measure to date of IO’s effectiveness can be seen in the Senate-passed version of HB 153, the Kasich administration’s proposed budget bill.  Among the highlights are: Elimination of the Workers Compensation Council (WCC) On April 20, IO presented its tongue-in-cheek “Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week” award to the obscure WCC, a state agency created by the General Assembly in 2007 at the specific behest of then-Representative and now Speaker of the House William Batchelder. IO pointed out that the agency, which was ostensibly created to provide oversight for the Bureau of  Workers Compensation, had a $950,000 two-year budget but only a single employee (the Director, a personal friend of the Speaker, who was paid over $100,000 annually), and had produced virtually no work product over the past three years.  Citing it as a “boondoggle supreme”, IO called on the General Assembly to terminate the WCC and prove they’d “be as tough on conservative political appointees s they are on police, firefighters and teachers.”  The “award” received widespread media attention and provoked an angry, but entirely unconvincing, response by House Republicans. Though the WCC briefly survived as part of the BWC bill, it was quietly eliminated on May 31 in the Senate’s version of the budget. Elimination of House-passed Charter School Amendments IO has been relentlessly outspoken in its criticism of Ohio’s for-profit charter schools, the majority of which have performance ratings worse than those of traditional public schools, despite costing the state twice as much per pupil to fund.  On May 12, IO released a major study of Ohio’s on-line, electronic schools (“E-Schools”), a subset of charter schools. In addition to highlighting the schools’ atrocious academic performance and cost, the study examined the multi-million dollar political contributions to Republican candidates and causes made by Ohio’s two principal E-school operators, David Brennan and William Lager. The report received extensive news coverage and precipitated several editorials in major Ohio dailies. After the House added a series of amendments to the budget bill (at the direct request of Mr. Brennan) that would have removed virtually all oversight and accountability from charter schools, IO issued a blistering news release on May 31 titled “Does ‘King David’ Own the Senate, Too?”, which called on the upper chamber to eliminate all the House-passed charter amendments.  Later that day, the Senate did so. Restoration of School and Local Government Funding On April 7, IO released a study which projected that as many as 51,000 existing jobs could be lost if all the Kasich Administration’s proposed cuts to K-12 education and local governments were enacted.  The study received extensive media coverage and no persuasive rebuttal to IO’s methodology or job loss projections was ever offered either by the administration or its legislative allies. As a result, IO’s 51,000 lost jobs figure has become widely accepted and is often cited as perhaps the most authoritative projection available. On May 31, the Senate mitigated the proposed Kasich cuts by adding $195 million to K-12 education funding, and $100 million in local government funding. If the Senate amendments ultimately become law, IO projects the added funding could save as many as 4,148 jobs. Partial Elimination of the “Secret Six” Budget Pages On April 12, IO presented a “Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week Award” to what we called the “Secret Six” pages of the Kasich budget which would not only give the Administration unprecedented authority to contract out state services with no oversight, but also exempt winning contractors from paying any state or local business taxes.  The budget passed by the Senate on May 31 both reined in the Administration’s contracting authority, and specifically requires any private purchaser of state prisons to pay business taxes on their profits, including the so-called CAT tax to which all other Ohio businesses are subject.

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