File-Mike DeWine coronavirus

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine discusses the most recent data on Ohio's soaring coronavirus cases during a news briefing at John Glenn International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – Saying Ohio can lead the country in economic recovery, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a two-year budget proposal that spends $1 billion in new money and does not dip into the state’s rainy day fund.

The one-time spending comes from budget cuts at the beginning of the pandemic, along with federal money that will be used to help small businesses, workforce development and develop and implement a marketing campaign to attract more people to the state.

“The budget we are sending to the Legislature invests in Ohio’s businesses, its people and its communities,” DeWine said Monday. “We are in a position to make this one-time expenditure. In the beginning of the pandemic, we froze state spending. We have reduced state workforce by 1,500 employees. We’ve saved money by refinancing state debts.

“This plan is also possible because of federal government funding, and our careful management of those dollars. Federal support is one-time money, and we need to spend it on one-time expenses to help Ohioans recover quickly.”

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce applauded the proposal for helping the hospitality industry, along with initiatives for local economic development site readiness and high-speed broadband internet access.

“While Ohio’s economy is showing signs of recovery and vaccines offer hope, businesses, like all Ohioans, continue to face great uncertainty,” Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Doehrel said. “We need an aggressive, pro-growth budget focused on economic recovery, and I am deeply appreciative.”

DeWine’s budget does include a $10 increase in vehicle registration costs, along with a $2 increase in title fees.

DeWine’s proposal would spend $460 million on small businesses to help continued recovery efforts, and another $450 million for communities to spend on key infrastructure projects. Finally, $50 million would be used to market the state throughout the country.

The marketing proposal drew criticism from Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron.

“Instead of spending $50m for a PR campaign Republicans could stop passing extremist legislation that keeps women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and working families from realizing their American dream in Ohio," Sykes tweeted. "It would be a lot cheaper. And much more kind.”

The Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational institution, also took exception to the marketing plan.

“Governor DeWine deserves credit for balancing the state budget during the pandemic, but there is still room for improvement,” Buckeye Institute President and CEO Robert Alt said in a statement. “Now is not the time for pork spending. A government-sponsored $50 million advertising campaign should be scrapped immediately or else reallocated to relieve the small businesses that have been devastated by the shutdown orders.”

Alt also suggested dipping into the state’s $2.7 billion rainy day fund rather than increasing fees for government services.

“While many of the governor’s policies – particularly the workforce and broadband proposals – can help move Ohio forward, this budget missed an opportunity to undertake bold reforms on taxes, spending, education and regulations.”

DeWine’s overall plan spends $74.5 billion over the next two years, compared with $69 billion allocated in the previous budget. There are no spending increases planned for education, other than increasing spending on high-performing charter schools from $30 million to $54 million.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.