Today, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear the case against Ohio's non-profit and private job creation corporation, JobsOhio. A liberal leaning advocacy group called Progress Ohio has been trying to get the state's highest court to accept the case. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, ProgressOhio’s Brian Rothenberg explains his group’s case is about two things -- the constitutional merit of JobsOhio and who has standing to sue it.
Rothenberg says his group is concerned that JobsOhio would allow public dollars to be spent on a private company without any oversight of that money. The state's liquor profits are estimated to provide nearly $100 million to JobsOhio.
ROTHENBERG: "At this point in time, no court has ever actually decided the merits of whether JobsOhio is constitutional or not. If the court were to decide no one has standing to sue, it is potentially possible that there could be an unconstitutional program, but that there would absolutely be no one that would have the right to sue in the state of Ohio. So that’s the first big issue. The second big issue, and it's a very important one, is JobsOhio because it essentially allows public dollars to be spent on a private company, which is JobsOhio, without any oversight of those public funds. And that issue has never been decided in court because the state has played these legal games over who has the right to sue. And more importantly, the state and Gov. Kasich, for whatever reason, is pushing forward to sell bonds. And in this case, the bonds are actually starting to move this week. We believe that that would put investors at risk, and that it is irresponsible of both the governor and Wall Street to allow this to go forward until the case is decided."
INGLES: "By taking this lawsuit, does that have any effect on the bonds?"
ROTHENBERG: "One would think that, because the Supreme Court thinks it's an important enough issue to take up, that the state of Ohio and Wall Street would take notice of it and would not sell the bonds. The important thing for the state of Ohio and its citizens is, that if it does move forward, we do have standing, and they find this unconstitutional, the state of Ohio is responsible for paying back all of these bonds. And it is really an irresponsible action, especially if it could be found to be unconstitutional."
When asked whether JobsOhio would proceed with selling the bonds, Spokeswoman Laura Jones didn't want to go on tape but did issue a written statement. She says, "What I can tell you is that in the process of selling bonds there are a number of steps that must take place before the transaction occurs and we continue to work on those steps."
In a separate written statement, JobsOhio says, "We do not comment on pending litigation. We are confident in our legislated mission to help businesses grow and create jobs for Ohioans."