COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Revised financial estimates mean an extra $3.3 billion for lawmakers crafting the upcoming state budget, the state announced Thursday. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine urged lawmakers to be conservative when factoring in the windfall, calling it one-time money attributable to federal pandemic aid.
“We have to be very, very conservative in how we spend it,” DeWine said. “In fact, not spend a lot of it. Maybe not even spend the lion’s share of it.”
He said no one yet knows how the coronavirus pandemic will play out in terms of the economy.
The state budget office forecast the revenues used in the governor's budget proposal in December, when the coronavirus pandemic was raging and the impact of the vaccination rollout was still unclear, said State Budget Director Kimberly Murnieks.
She noted that the pandemic illustrated how closely the state's economy is tied to the health of its residents. The updated forecasts call for an additional $1.7 billion next year and $1.6 billion in 2023.
“As we have stemmed the spread of the pandemic, consumers have returned to retail stores and restaurants, sparking growth,” Murnieks said Thursday in remarks to the joint House-Senate budget committee working out the final blueprint for state budget, which currently spends about $75 billion in state dollars over two years.
DeWine's aggressive early action to slow the spread of the coronavirus as well as freezing state government spending and hiring helped position the state for its recovery, Murnieks said. DeWine was the nation's first governor to close schools and he set forth a number of public health orders, from limits on gatherings to a statewide mask mandate, despite opposition from businesses and many fellow Republicans.
Despite the higher revenue forecast, the state is predicting that growth will slow in 2023 as the effect of the federal financial support wanes, Murnieks said.