“It was a good day at work today,” Ohio Controlling Board President Randy Cole wrote of the board’s October 21 decision to appropriate $2.5 billion in Obamacare Medicaid expansion funding. Cole reports directly to Republican Governor John Kasich, who has fought to implement the Obamacare expansion for over 8 months.
Video of Monday’s hearing posted by Youngstown Vindicator reporter Marc Kovac reveals exactly how the board operates: unelected bureaucrats appeal to a panel chaired by an unelected bureaucrat for more taxpayer money.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has already filed suit against the Controlling Board and the Kasich Administration for the October 21 Obamacare appropriation, asserting that it violates the separation of powers defined in the Ohio Constitution.
As Kovac’s videos show, the board’s Monday meeting amounted to political theater directed by Cole, who steered conversation between legislators and his peers in Kasich’s Office of Health Transformation (OHT), Department of Medicaid, and Department of Mental Health.
Only representatives of the agencies requesting funds may give testimony to the executive-led Controlling Board.
When Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba) asked OHT Director Greg Moody about the possibility of federal spending cuts depending on who is elected president in 2016, Cole alluded to rumors that his boss will seek the GOP nomination.
“Director, you do not have to comment on the 2016 presidential campaign,” Cole joked. “This hearing today has already received enough coverage without it being a kickoff of the presidential race.”
Following further remarks from Rep. Redfern, who is also the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Cole admonished him against jeopardizing the Kasich Administration’s appropriation request.
“I would just request respectfully, representative, that following your comments about poisoning the well, your line of questioning would not put us in a position that makes it hard to act on this request today,” Cole said.
After Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Twp.) challenged Medicaid Director John McCarthy on the sustainability of an entitlement expansion built upon billions per year in new federal funding, Cole interjected, “Senator, before your next question, I respectfully want to remind everyone what is before this board, which is the increase in federal appropriation through June 2015.”
“I understand the long-term sustainability question,” Cole continued, “but whether it was in this budget or through an appropriation action of this board we cannot bind a future General Assembly or move beyond the biennium in an appropriation.”
Cole added, “I just wanted to remind everyone of that context as we’re discussing years well beyond that and multiple budgets down the road.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Cole joked with McCarthy about whether he would be voting to move the Obamacare money, closing with a seemingly rehearsed statement.
“As a father with young children and a Gen X-er who has to live with this correct decision for the rest of their career, I very happily support your request,” Cole beamed.
This would come as no surprise to Ohioans who observed the hearing on October 21, or who followed Cole on Twitter in the 8 preceding months.
On October 19, Cole mocked an Americans for Prosperity mailer he received imploring Ohioans to ask Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) to vote against appropriating Obamacare funds. Prior to that, Cole shared posts from Kasich Administration coworkers, business groups, health industry spokesmen, and reporters promoting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
Predictably, it appears to have caused no concern among Ohio’s legacy press that a small board led by an employee of the executive branch — an appointee of the governor, whose career is inextricably linked to Ohio’s use of billions in new federal Medicaid funding — has the power to facilitate a rewrite of the state’s largest entitlement program.