FILE - Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof, Ohio House speaker Larry Householder

Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof, left, speaks as Ohio House speaker Larry Householder looks on during the Republican's response to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – Tax collections in Ohio were down sharply in April, a clear sign of how much of an impact the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed restrictions are having on the state’s economy. 

General Revenue Fund (GRF) personal income tax receipts in April were $635.7 million, or 50.5 percent, below the budgeted estimate, while non-auto sales and use tax collections were $146.2 million, or 17.7 percent, below the forecast, according to a new report.

“As Coronavirus spread around the world, economic activity around the globe, the nation and in Ohio declined rapidly,” Kimberly Murnieks, director of the Office of Budget and Management (OMB), said in a memo. “Fighting the disease is only half the battle. The other half is managing the economic effects of both the pandemic and our response to it.”

The news comes amid the reopening of businesses across the Buckeye State. Ohio has reported more than 24,700 “confirmed and probable” cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,350 “confirmed and probable” deaths.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a $775 million cut in state spending to offset reduced revenues. But the worst may be yet to come as economists do not agree on how the recovery might look. 

“There are still too many unknowns about the coronavirus pandemic today to accurately predict the shape of the economic recovery,” Murnieks wrote. “Without a vaccine or major improvements in the treatment, economic activity is unlikely to fully return to its pre-pandemic baseline quickly.

“Even after government restrictions are lifted, some business owners may delay reopening for a lack of personal protective equipment, and others will face delays as they innovate their business plans to allow for more space between workers, customers, or both,” Murnieks added. “It is unclear how quickly consumers will return to shopping, dining out, and traveling.”

State Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, on Tuesday said the Ohio Senate would return $1 million from its Fiscal Year 2020 budget to the GRF. The money represents more than 20 percent of the Senate’s remaining appropriation for the fiscal year.

“Ohioans everywhere are making difficult but necessary budget cuts, both personally and professionally, and state government must do the same,” Obhof said in a news release.

“I believe that it is important for the legislature to lead by example,” Obhof added. “Now more than ever it is important that we adhere to the core conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government and pro-growth economic policies.”