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State must let citizens watch purse strings

Much of Ohio's government appears to be a driverless-bus careening down the highway with the citizens and all their hard-earned tax dollars as helpless passengers.

Recent scandals have shown the state government throws millions in tax dollars around carelessly, with little regard for the ramifications. The state must make changes now to create a watchdog panel to make sure that legislators and government officials are held accountable for every cent and every million.

We all now know that the Bureau of Workers' Compensation made $300 million in questionable investments with as much $13 million still unaccounted. Only recently has it come to light that the bureau overpaid hospitals by about $544 million more than the cost of actually treating the injured workers during the past seven years.

Hospital officials have countered that this deal was negotiated and that payments went up because health care costs went up. Any way you look at it, hospitals were allegedly paid 71 percent more than the actual costs to treat injured workers in 2003 and 59 percent more than the cost last year.

Gov. Bob Taft has asked for an explanation and further study of the data, but we urge the governor to take it a step farther.

Only a fool would think that these types of problems and fund mismanagement only occurred in this one department of government. We don't think Taft is a fool and we know Ohioans are not.

Now is time to implement sweeping changes to create some checks and balances so that these types of problems are nipped in the bud before they grow into million-dollar dilemmas.

The governor should create an independent agency, non-partisan and as non-political as possible in this day and age, to find wasteful spending and provide reports to the public and state leaders. Sure it may cost a little money, but will it cost $300 million? Absolutely not.

The group would not allocate funds or make decisions, it would simply analyze all the information and make it available to the public.

Every penny the government has belongs to the taxpayers. Now is time we create our own "change counters" to watch the purse strings.