COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday he’s cutting $775 million from the state budget in the next two months because of plummeting revenue due to the pandemic.
The spending reductions are necessary now to avoid worse cuts down the road, and will affect every state agency except the prisons department, the Republican governor said. The state went from running $200 million ahead in revenue estimates in February to the nearly three-quarter billion drop last month, DeWine said.
The governor said he’s not tapping Ohio’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund until the new fiscal year beginning in July. The budget can be balanced now with cuts, and the rainy day money will be needed later this year and next, he said.
“This rain is not a passing spring shower,” DeWine said. “It could be a long, cold, lingering storm.”
The budget slashing includes $355 million for schools and $110 million for higher education, and $210 million from the state Medicaid program, which provides health care for poor children and families.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers expressed immediate concern over the proposed education cuts.
“Our K-12 schools need more resources, more technology, and more staff to meet our students’ growing emotional, physical, and academic needs,” president Melissa Cropper said in a statement.
More coronavirus developments in Ohio:
CASES CLIMB AT CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
Coronavirus cases continue to climb in adult and juvenile prisons in Ohio, according to county, state and federal agencies. The Department of Youth Services reports that 21 youth have tested positive, along with 10 staff, with almost all the cases at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in suburban Cleveland. Mask-wearing is mandatory by inmates and staff at the facility, and both visits to the facility and movement between units have been restricted, said DYS spokeswoman Jill Craig.
Meanwhile, Franklin County officials confirmed that 27 staff members and 14 youth tested positive at the county’s juvenile detention center in downtown Columbus, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Statewide, more than 4,300 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and 38 have died, including 23 at Pickaway Correctional Institution in central Ohio, according to the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. A guard and a prison nurse have also died.
In Morrow County, where at least 79 detainees are held under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders, jail officials announced last week that 50 detainees have tested positive. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Tuesday sued, seeking the release of 20 of those detainees with serious underlying health problems. An ICE spokesman declined comment, except to note that 700 detainees nationally have been released during the pandemic.
In eastern Ohio, the federal prison in Elkton must transfer and release 837 medically vulnerable inmates under a Monday ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected the government’s request to delay the move. Seven Elkton inmates have died and another 88 tested positive, along with 49 positive cases among staff, according to the Bureau of Prisons.
DeWine said the corrections issue is “of grave concern” because of the problem of so many people in one space. “It is a concern, not just for the tragedy within the prison, but obviously out into the different communities, where people who work in the prisons end up going back out,” the governor said, adding that testing of guards is being accelerated.
Former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, a former prison psychologist, has been assisting with the situation in Ohio’s prisons, DeWine said.
The number of confirmed and probable deaths associated with the coronavirus has reached 1,135, state health officials said Tuesday. The department noted nearly 21,000 presumptive and confirmed cases of the virus, including nearly 4,000 hospitalizations.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Seewer reported from Toledo. Associated Press Writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.