A 4-2 decision by the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday virtually ensures the question about whether the financing mechanism for JobsOhio passes constitutional muster will not be resolved quickly enough for John Kasich.
The governor created JobsOhio out of the state Department of Development, setting up a private entity to drive job creation in Ohio “at the speed of business.” The plan requires the Department of Commerce to transfer operation of the state liquor business and the profits to JobsOhio for 25 years, a deal estimated at $1.4 billion, Ohio receiving the first $500 million as part of balancing the budget.
ProgressOhio, a liberal policy group, filed suit, contending the transfer of public funds to a private entity violated the state constitution. That contention has not been resolved on its merits. A Franklin County court and the 10th District Court of Appeals have dismissed the lawsuit on grounds that the group lacked legal standing. An appeal of the decision on legal standing, joined by the libertarian group 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is pending before the high court. Meanwhile, David Goodman, the commerce director, whose signature was needed along with that of the budget director to activate the transfer of rights, declined to sign, rightly citing the constitutional issue raised.
The legal standoff grew murkier with a maneuver to reach a quick resolution. This summer, JobsOhio filed a complaint against Goodman, asking the Supreme Court to compel him to sign. And now the court has refused to assist in sidestepping the standard route for litigation.
The majority noted, perceptively, that the JobsOhio complaint “actually seeks an expedited ruling from this court declaring [the JobsOhio arrangement] constitutional, so as to preclude any further challenges.” In directing that the complaint properly belongs in the lower courts, the justices have made a valid show of restraint.