CLEVELAND — When Governor Mike DeWine announced $775 million in cuts to the state budget last month it didn’t solve the long term problem it just bought the state two months until July 1 when a new budget with a new set of headaches kicks in. The state’s Director of the Office of Budget and Management Kimberly Murnieks said this week the hole already in the new budget is $2.5 billion.
“Given the current economic situation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary that Ohio state government implement immediate additional measures to reduce expenditures by state agencies, boards, and commissions, as planned personnel expenditures for fiscal year 2021 are unsustainable,” Murnieks said in a statement to News 5 in announcing the following steps to save money.
• Pay and Step Freeze: “We are requesting that the General Assembly adopt an amendment to institute a pay freeze and a freeze on step advancement for exempt employees for fiscal year 2021.”
• Mandatory Cost Savings Days: “We are instituting a mandatory cost savings days program for fiscal year 2021 for exempt employees. This will be accomplished by reducing exempt employees’ bi-weekly wages for each pay period throughout the year in an amount equivalent to 80 hours (10 days) of unpaid leave, for an approximate 3.8% pay reduction.”
• Cabinet Directors: “Cabinet director salaries will be reduced by 4%.”
• Unions: “We have asked the organizations representing the State’s collective bargaining employees to come to the table by June 15 to discuss ways to reduce bargaining unit personnel costs.”
• Additional Measures: “The State will continue to operate under the hiring freeze already in effect, again with exceptions for those staff providing direct response to the COVID-19 situation. All existing budgetary control restrictions will continue.”
The savings though will far from cover the hole in the budget DeWine said for the simple reason, “most of the budget does not get spent on state agencies."
Yes the state is a middle man for most of the tax money they collect with more than 85% of the budget going back out in checks to education, local government, higher education and medicaid. The very agencies that got cut in May when the state needed to close the budget hole quick to comply with the constitutional requirement to end the year with a balanced budget.
To those who did their part in the first round of cuts, DeWine told News 5 last month what he told them.
"Our goal is to get through next year without any more cuts, I don't know that we can do that but that certainly is our goal,” he said.