Kasich reverses board’s oversight

The way Gov. John Kasich’s administration has used the State Controlling Board to allow expansion of Medicaid coverage in Ohio is ironic.

The state solicitor Tuesday denied claims the controlling board didn’t have the authority to approve federal funding to expand Medicaid in Ohio. The $2.56 billion in federal funds are to extend Medicaid coverage for some 366,000 Ohioans.

The state legislature declined to include that spending in the current state budget. But the Kasich administration maneuvered around that by asking the State Controlling Board to approve it last month – then replaced two board members to ensure its passage. The seven-member board approved the expansion funds on a 5-2 vote Oct. 21.

That action has been challenged in court. In a filing Tuesday, state Solicitor Eric Murphy stated the state and the board “specifically deny that the Controlling Board acted without authority.”

That’s ironic, considering the Office of Budget and Management’s description of the State Controlling Board:

“Over its history, the Board has been viewed as a convenient way to exercise legislative oversight of executive actions. Thus the powers of the Board have been expanded into areas beyond those contained in the Board’s original authorization. Recent history demonstrates that the Board’s authority often is expanded as a reaction to the legislature’s perceptions of inappropriate behavior on the part of the executive branch.”

The irony lies in that last sentence. Kasich has turned that around. If the court finds that the board acted within its authority – that it followed the letter of the law, if not the spirit – it will be interesting to see whether, and how, the Legislature responds.