Having failed to convince the body of the people, the state legislature, to approve his plan to expand Medicaid in Ohio, Governor Kasich is considering a new course, one less representative and more, shall we say, authoritarian. In fact, those who enjoy a little irony, will find the name of his expedient slightly amusing: the Controlling Board.
Although, it sounds a bit like the stuff of a cold-war thriller, the Controlling Board is actually a function of the state legislature and the Office of Management and Budget. It is described on OMB’s website as, “..a mechanism for handling certain limited day-to-day adjustments needed in the state budget.”
The Controlling Board consists of the chairs of the Senate and House Finance Committees and a republican and democrat from both houses. The Director of the OMB serves as the Board’s President.
A description of the Board’s authority can be found here, but generally includes transferring funds between line items or fiscal years, allowing for emergency funding and approving grants and loans made by the Department of Development among other duties.
Making major changes to entitlement programs and committing Ohioans to billions in spending does not appear to be on the list of responsibilities for the Controlling Board, but Governor Kasich and his administration seem to be willing to finesse this sticking point. Kasich spokesmen Rob Nichols tells the Columbus Dispatch,
“Funds for any changes to Medicaid require legislative approval, either by legislation or the Controlling Board, and the administration will be prepared to implement those changes whenever and however the General Assembly makes them possible.”
But while Kasich tries to make the Controlling Board seem akin to the legislative branch, some in the state legislature want nothing to do with Kasich’s scheme. The Dispatch reports that Senator Bill Coley “hopes the governor holds off” and that Rep. Amstutz has “grave concerns” about using the Controlling Board to expand Medicaid.
The Republicans in the Ohio Assembly who said “No” to Medicaid expansion aren’t the only people with concerns. Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law told the Dispatch,
“You’ve got really good case law saying that the legislature makes major policy in Ohio.”
For those who have closely followed the fight against Obamacare in Ohio, it has been rather startling to watch the transformation of John Kasich. From stalwart opponent joining with 25 states to challenge Obamacare in the U.S. Supreme Court, to willing enabler pushing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the state assembly, and now to seriously considering ramming expansion through in an autocratic style bypassing all normal checks and balances, Kasich has become a disappointment to Ohioans who have fought boldly to stop Obamacare. We cannot sit idly by and let Kasich make an end run around our state legislature and the people.