Friday, January 7, 2011

Dispatch... Kasich spends a buck on job creation

Columbus Dispatch...
For $1, Kasich hires private help to spur job creation
Thursday, January 6, 2011
By Mark Niquette

A prominent venture capitalist from Silicon Valley has agreed to run the Ohio Department of Development essentially free to help transition it to a private jobs organization, Gov.-elect John Kasich plans to announce on Friday.

Mark Kvamme, a partner at Sequoia Capital in Menlo Park, Calif., will serve as department director on an interim basis for $1 for a period of months and help start the nonprofit JobsOhio, Kasich said today.

Privatizing the state’s development department was a key element of Kasich’s campaign for governor. He complained that the state’s current efforts were ineffective.

Kasich said Kvamme, a longtime friend who worked with him when Kasich was a managing director at Lehman Brothers, will help decide which current tax incentive and other job-creation programs are effective.

“He’ll run the Department of Development and rationalize it,” Kasich said. “He’ll say, ‘This should go, this should stay’ ... and he’ll help me draw up the metrics for how we’re going to do these deals. I couldn’t get a better guy.”

Details of the plan, including legislation that would be needed to make the changes, still are being worked out. But Kasich has said he envisioned JobsOhio being funded by both public and private sources and run by a board of current and former chief executives who would report to him as chairman.

Programs now housed at the agency that are not directly related to economic development, such as home weatherization, would be evaluated and moved to other state agencies, Kasich has said.

Kasich said he told Kvamme it would be a “four- or five-month job” and that he hopes to have JobsOhio in place in six months. He said he would expect Kvamme to join the new board of directors at JobsOhio.

Kvamme’s appointment is the 15th cabinet position that Kasich has filled so far before he takes office on Monday. Outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland had made nine cabinet nominations before taking office in 2007.

Today, the incoming Republican governor announced the appointments of three other agency directors, including two who served in the Democratic Strickland administration.

Kasich said John Martin, who was Strickland’s director of the Department of Developmental Disabilities, will continue in that role and that Tracy Plouck, the current state Medicaid director, will become director of the Department of Mental Health.

The incoming governor also named Orman Hall of Lancaster to lead the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. Hall is director of the Fairfield County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Board and said addressing the epidemic abuse of addictive, opiate-based prescription drugs would be “job one.”

Kasich also said he would consider consolidating the agencies as part of an effort to avoid turf fights and other issues that get in the way of delivering services. He said he hopes Ohio can “be a very progressive state.”

Kasich said such efforts also could reduce costs, tempering the need for draconian cuts in services, even with the state facing a shortfall of $8 billion or more in the next budget.

“This is not an area that’s ripe for some kind of devastating cuts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kasich declined to confirm or deny a list of proposed salaries for his incoming staff members that, in some cases, are tens of thousands of dollars higher than the pay for comparable staff members in the Strickland administration.

The draft list was released by the state budget office in response to a public-records request, but Kasich said he would provide the current list of staff members, agency directors and their salaries on Monday after he takes office.

The Service Employees International Union issued a statement saying that Kasich has promised fiscal discipline but is “giving huge pay increases to his top staff while attacking working people and the services they provide.”

In response, Kasich said the total pay for all of his staff and his cabinet members would not exceed what is currently being paid.

Kasich also said today that it was a mistake to propose limiting media access to his midnight swearing-in and other inauguration events Monday. He eventually reversed that position.

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