COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $775 million budget reduction in General Revenue Fund (GRF) spending for the rest of the fiscal year.

“That means we have to obtain these $775 million in cuts over the next two months,” DeWine said on Twitter.

“The cruel nature of an economic downturn is that at the time of when you are in need of the social safety net is also the time when government revenues shrink,” DeWine added. “We are trying to preserve basic services for people, while we get through this period. That is why we need stability.”

DeWine identified the cuts as $110 million for higher education, $55 million for other education line items, $210 million to Medicaid, $300 million for the K-12 foundation payment deduction and $100 million for other agencies.

“These decisions were not easy,” DeWine said. “We did not make them lightly, but they are necessary. As many of our businesses are making adjustments in this difficult time, so must our government.”

In announcing the reduction, the governor said he does not plan to tap into the state’s rainy day fund. Ohio currently has nearly $2.7 billion in the fund.

“I know that I have said that ‘it’s raining,’ but we do not want to tap into that fund yet,” DeWine said. “The ‘rain’ is not a passing spring shower – it could be a long, cold, lingering storm, and we should not use it until it is necessary.”

As of Monday afternoon, Ohio had 20,969 cases of COVID-19 and 1,135 deaths.

There is a clear divide among state leaders on how to proceed. While DeWine has directed the state to open in phases, other state leaders, such as state Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, want the state to reopen at a quicker pace.

“Our aggressive measures have paid off: the curve was flattened, the public is prepared to protect themselves through social distancing and proper hygiene practices, and our communities have banded together to ensure safe environments,” Romanchuk said in a statement.

“I believe the time has come to trust Ohioans to protect themselves – and each other,” Romanchuk added. “We can thread the needle between protecting public health and safety while maintaining some semblance of restoring our economy, and I wholeheartedly believe we must act now before it is too late.”

Courtesy Photo Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addresses a news conference March 4. Photo Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addresses a news conference March 4.

By Todd DeFeo

The Center Square