Campaign funds to help pay governor’s speech expenses
Barred from using Ohio tax dollars, some state lawmakers are expected to use campaign cash to cover their travel expenses for the governor’s relocated State of the State address this year.
State law allows elected officials to pay for gas and meals related to their duties with political donations. The provision keeps taxpayers from picking up certain tabs, but it’s raised concerns from at least one state government watchdog group that says it has the potential to extend donors’ influence beyond elections.
Gov. John Kasich is delivering his annual policy speech this afternoon from Wells Academy elementary school in Steubenville, an eastern Ohio city close to the West Virginia border. It will mark the first time the speech is delivered outside the Statehouse in Columbus. The first-term Republican has defended the move as providing a boost to a neglected area.
State, city and school officials say they aren’t anticipating any additional costs related to the speech. But a final spending figure isn’t yet known.
No extra state dollars will be spent on getting all 132 state legislators to Steubenville, even though their joint session with Kasich is being held 130 miles east of Columbus.
Most lawmakers typically receive a weekly mileage allowance that covers one roundtrip to the Statehouse from their homes.
Carpooling to the event has been strongly encouraged, according to a memo the Kasich administration has sent to its 26 Cabinet officers.
Several Republican senators and staff are making trip from Columbus in an $840 rented bus paid for by their caucus’ campaign fund. The drive is expected to take three hours, one way, from the capital. But travel time could be longer or shorter for some officials leaving from their homes.
State lawmakers won’t get any money for hotel stays, or food along the way.
“It is their responsibility to take care of that,” said Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for the Ohio House. “There is no taxpayer dollars associated with the reimbursement of that at all.”
House Speaker William Batchelder has said staff will not be paid for travel to the event either.
Of more than 200 House staffers, less than a dozen are expected to go to the speech, Dittoe said.