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Yost Finds Many Companies Given Incentives Failed To Meet Requirements

Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at a press conference in 2018.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

Attorney General Dave Yost says he doesn’t like some of what he found in a review of state incentives for economic development projects in the final year of former Gov. John Kasich’s administration. He’s now pushing some changes to the way the state awards grants, loans and tax credits.

Yost said Monday that the noncompliant groups received almost $14 million in loans closed out in 2018. Yost also says the state Development Services Agency modified grant requirements after the fact to allow grantees to be compliant. 

Yost likened this to moving the goal posts in a football game. A message was left with the Development Services Agency seeking comment. Yost is recommending that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and lawmakers review the loan program.

Yost said some of these practices are longstanding, and that there appears to be a lot of pressure to make it seem those incentives are doing more than they really are.

"I wouldn’t go that far. But I think that this report shows that there are issues over there, that this program could be run more robustly with greater accountability," Yost said.

Yost said he’d like a law that requires JobsOhio turn over a list of projects that got both incentives from both the state and JobsOhio – which he says he requested and never received.

He said he’d also like to see a requirement that all roadwork development grants include job creation and retention expectations, and a ban on modifying incentive deals after terms are agreed to.

“It’s worth asking the question whether there ought to be a backward looking claw back for tax benefits received when there’s later determination that the targets were not achieved," Yost said.

Yost said this isn’t about fixing blame, but fixing the system.

Matt Englehart with JobsOhio didn't take on the claims but said in a statement: “We take the performance of all of our projects very seriously and work closely with DSA on these projects to help companies attract jobs and investment for the people of Ohio.”

Todd Walker with DSA said in a written statement that companies that had commitments in 2018 overperformed on total jobs, total payroll and total investment in the state.

"They committed to create 25,812 jobs, add $1.4 billion in payroll, and invest more than $2 billion in Ohio," Walker said in his statement. "They outperformed those commitments by creating 26,486 jobs or 102.6% of commitment, added $1.8 billion in payroll or 130.5% of commitment, and invested more than $3.3 billion or 166.2% of commitment. We are reviewing the report and remain committed to ensuring strong accountability for taxpayer dollars."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.