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State board provides check on spending

While work on the state budget is complete, the debate and discussion about state spending will continue throughout the summer.

The Controlling Board — a bipartisan panel of legislators from the House and Senate, which I have served on for several years — meets every two weeks to review state contracts and other agency spending requests. This past week, the board met for the first time since the budget passed, and I had the opportunity to ask questions about several items of interest.

There were a number of requests from the Ohio Department of Development to release dollars from Ohio’s Third Frontier program, which is designed to support high-tech research that will lead to the commercialization of new products, the growth of small businesses and the creation of jobs in Ohio. Established in 2002, the Department of Development estimates that the program has helped create 40,000 jobs and inject $2.3 billion into our state’s economy. In fact, I recently visited a business in Pickaway County that received Third Frontier support for their work with nanotechnology.

During the controlling board meeting on July 27, Development sought approval to release Third Frontier dollars for business incubators and other development organizations in Franklin and Cuyahoga counties, which help support the growth of new technology companies. I asked the agency if they sought geographical diversity when determining where to direct Third Frontier resources. Department officials responded that all regions of Ohio have received Third Frontier money previously, and Franklin and Cuyahoga counties were chosen this time around because they had projects that were ready to move forward immediately. They added that if start-up companies in central and northeast Ohio are successful, they could impact economic growth in other parts of the state.

I voted to approve the release, because we need jobs anywhere we can get them in Ohio, and according to the Department of Development, there are still Third Frontier resources available to support business growth in Southern Ohio. If you are interested in learning more about the Third Frontier program, please visit www.thirdfrontier.com.

There were other items on the Controlling Board’s agenda that I opposed. For instance, I voted against requests from the Ohio Board of Regents that tried to circumvent the state budget process by asking Board members to authorize the creation of two new funds containing more than $570,000. I also voted “no” for three requests for building projects at the University of Cincinnati and Marion Technical College that were labeled as emergencies but were not.

Furthermore, during discussion about several spending requests from the Ohio Lottery Commission, I questioned Commission representatives about their new slogan, “take a chance on education.”

I believe this misleads people into thinking that lottery profits provide all the necessary funding for Ohio’s schools. The Commission responded that they are aware of the concern and are working to address it.

While the Controlling Board does not offer the level of drama that we saw during the budget process, it provides an important check on state spending to help ensure that taxpayer dollars are handled responsibly and invested in areas that will grow our economy and provide the greatest benefit to Ohio families and our local communities. Moving forward, I will continue to evaluate spending requests with this goal in mind.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.