COLUMBUS, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine said Monday he would veto any bill that would seek to shut down the state’s Vax-a-Million promotion that will give $1 million a week for the next five weeks to any Ohioan who has been vaccinated. State Representative Jena Powell, a Republican representing Darke and Miami counties, plans to introduce the measure this week.
“People are outraged because they think this is a bribe from our governor,” Powell told News 5. “Forcing people to get a vaccine and say 'hey if you do, you have a chance of winning $1 million of hard earned taxpayer dollars.'”
Powell said she’d like to see the money go towards small business funds or children’s mental health but she recognizes the bill will not have any impact on the first week’s drawing nor is it likely to move through the legislature fast enough to impact the remaining four.
"What we're really looking at is future dollars and saying hey we want to save taxpayers money how can we do this in the best possible way."
Supporters of the program argue this is not a use of state funds but rather federal funds from the COVID relief package geared towards public outreach much the same as the state's public service announcements the state pays to run on TV do like the ones that are airing with Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski.
Beyond that, there's the free advertising the state argues that has come from the international attention the program has received.
“The amount of earned media that we have received in stories just for the first week, for the first seven days, comes to $15 million,” said DeWine.
All of which has combined the governor's arguments to do what they wanted, boost vaccinations in all age groups but especially the young whose numbers were lagging.
“That group, the 16 to 17 year olds there’s been a 94 percent increase in vaccinations,” he said.
In a twist, the governor spotlighted the 10 counties in the state that had the biggest turnaround in the number of vaccines given since Vax-a-Million was announced, with one of them being Powell’s Miami County with a 129% increase in vaccinations over the last week.