Toward the end of 2016, state lawmakers created a permanent Tax Expenditure Review Committee. Ideally, the panel would have plunged readily and deeply into its work, starting to examine the state’s 129 tax breaks, totaling $9 billion a year, for need and effectiveness. The panel’s findings might have made their way into the governor’s race, not to mention legislative contests, candidates discussing what should be a high priority for Ohio.

Unfortunately, the review committee has been slow to act, continuing a pattern that goes back decades, the Statehouse providing little oversight of what is another version of public spending, or the dollars of taxpayers.

The law requires the panel of lawmakers to review each tax break once every eight years, advising whether to continue, modify, end or proceed with additional review. So far, the committee has identified an initial 15 breaks from the sales tax, amounting to $5.5 billion a year. Yet it has held just three hearings, the most recent in May.

As Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based think tank, recently noted, the committee has no dedicated staff members. It has not hired experts in accounting, economics or the law to help in the evaluation. No surprise, then, that lawmakers missed a July 1 deadline, written into the statute, for issuing a report with findings and recommendations.

Recall that an earlier deadline passed without the required appointment of committee members.

Policy Matters added that members received summary information about the cost of each break and such things as the original legislation. The committee has obtained data through the National Conference of State Legislatures concerning how neighboring states handle similar tax breaks. It turns out in several cases, those states have narrower exemptions, for instance, involving the purchases and sales by churches and nonprofit organizations.

All of this rates as a mere start, or not where a serious effort would stand 18 months after its launch. As Policy Matters highlighted, for eight of the 15 tax expenditures, no one showed up at the committee hearing to explain the need.

These tax expenditures deserve a good scrubbing. Some date back five or six decades. It is logical and responsible to ask whether they still serve a valid purpose or whether they should be altered to reflect changing circumstances. Imagine Medicaid, the state covering roughly one-third of the nearly $22 billion a year spent in Ohio, receiving such slight attention. As it is, the legislature has the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee, complete with a staff, the use of independent experts and monthly meetings. It has a similar arrangement for education.

The Republican majority has tried to be reassuring, now promising a report sometime this fall. An understandable urgency goes to the next state budget, Ohio with many needs inadequately addressed, from children services to higher education, from treatment for opioid addicts to mass transit, from financially strapped cities to the burden of poverty on many public schools. Even a sliver of that $9 billion would be helpful.

All it takes is for lawmakers to perform well the job they gave to themselves.