Faber says focus is on effectiveness
By Heath Harrison Email the author Published 12:23 pm Sunday, July 22, 2018
GOP candidate outlines plans for auditor’s office
Keith Faber is no stranger to how state government operates.
He has served in the legislature since 2001, first in the House of Representatives, for the 84th district that includes his hometown of small northwest Ohio hometown of Celina, then as a member of the Senate, where he was president from 2013-2016.
After term limits in that chamber kicked in, he returned to the House, where he currently serves.
Faber, 52, is the Republican nominee for state auditor, running to fill the seat being vacated by incumbent David Yost, who is running for attorney general. He will face Democratic former U.S. Rep. Zack Space in this fall’s general election.
Faber said he hopes to take his knowledge of state government and improve its functioning.
“The auditor’s office is the one area in state government, where you can reform the way it works,” he said. “The office integrates with every local political subdivision and every state agency.”
Faber was in Lawrence County last week, meeting with local political and business leaders, and also paid a visit to the county fair.
On Tuesday, he stopped by The Tribune, where he outlined his vision for the office.
“It’s the one place where, with performance audits, in particular, that you can change and improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of state government,” Faber said. “Serving in the state legislature for a while, I got a good feeling of how state government works and I have an idea for where opportunities for improvement are.”
Faber said he hopes to build on his accomplishments in the legislature, with a focus on effectiveness.
“I think performance audits are a way to do things better, faster and cheaper,” he said. “My focus in the legislature was always about trying to make things happen better, faster and cheaper and the auditor’s office is a good place to exercise some of those ideas.”
Faber said the state needs to improve the way it conducts audits.
“Particularly in the Department of Administrative Services,” he said. “And the way we do IT contracting is a disaster. They need to do things to make things cheaper and better.”
He pointed specifically to the field of higher education as an area he would like to focus on.
“When I was Senate president, we issued the Ohio Senate 5 Percent Challenge and proved that it could be done cheaper,” he said. “We reduced the cost of education in Ohio at state colleges and universities by an average of 11.7 percent, by encouraging them to be innovators and to do things cheaper — things like online open source textbooks. We authorized, as part of that, for the auditor’s office to do performance audits of higher education, and so were certainly going to take a look at that as well.”
Faber said he would also like to tackles problems surrounding Medicaid.
“It’s nearly 50 percent of state budget and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t have a conversation with somebody about ways to make the Medicaid system better, faster and cheaper,” he said. “A good example is the pharmacy benefit manager program. It just blows my mind that we’re allowing a company that owns drug stores to be the statewide PBM, telling the other pharmacies what they’re going to get paid, but yet their pharmacies are being paid at a higher rate. To me, that’s unethical and we shouldn’t allow it. We need to put transparency in that.”
As an example of his record, he pointed to efforts he made in the Senate, which he said improved the way Ohio deals with public records disputes.
“When I was president of the Senate, we saw a problem in that public records disputes were costing too much money and taking too long to get resolved,” Faber said. “We found a way to get those resolved through a public records mediation program that has resolved almost 100 percent of the things that were brought to it for a filing fee of 25 bucks.”
He said this has created a database of public records law, made up of disputes that have been resolved.
“Contrast that with what was done before,” Faber said. “The attorney general had a program, the auditor’s office had a program — we put it in the court of claims where it should be. It should be a court function, and now the program is the model for the nation. It’s working just remarkably well and, what were finding is that public records disputes are getting resolved on an average of 30-60 days, where it’s not taking tens of thousands of dollars and, in some cases, over a year, to resolve those disputes.”
Faber said this would be the way he would work in the auditor’s office.
“That’s the kind of approach we need to take across the board,” he said. “Find a problem, and then put smart people in a room to find a solution. That’s my approach to state government and why I’m running to be auditor.”
The general election in Ohio is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Editor’s Note: The Tribune spoke with Faber’s opponent, Zack Space, when he visited Lawrence County in fall 2017.