Governor DeWine began today’s press conference by indicating that he wouldn’t be tapping into the Rainy Day Fund to fill a $775 million dollar budget hole. At least not just yet.
The Governor, instead, is proposing sizable cuts mostly to Medicaid spending, to education and to local government for the last two months of the fiscal year. But state agencies won’t be spared either, as DeWine announced $100 million cuts total for all state agencies with the exception of the Dept. of Rehabilitation and Corrections.
Most state agencies will tighten spending these next two months without cutting OCSEA bargaining unit staff, for the most part. But this is expected to only be good news for the short term.
There is one exception to this. OCSEA was notified at the beginning of the week that 12 Amusement Ride Inspectors would be laid off, for lack of work and economy. The union will be working with this group to try to find them other positions within state government. It is hoped that their services will be needed once amusement parks, fairs and other events reopen at some point in the future.
Other agency cuts will be bolstered by a continuation of a hiring freeze, freeze on unclassified exempt pay increases and promotions, a non-essential travel freeze and the freeze on new contracts.
The union still has concerns about the decline in state revenue and that there will be funding cuts and layoffs as the crisis drags on after July 1. Public employees in most major cities have seen furloughs or layoffs already, and now Ohio’s public universities are announcing employee cuts.
“We are deeply concerned about cuts to the rank and file of state employees,” said OCSEA Pres. Chris Mabe. “State agency budgets make up less than 10 percent of the state budget now, and have declined steadily, really, since the Great Recession. We’ve never really recovered,” said Mabe. “So now we’re going to make cuts to already skeleton crews? I don’t know how we sustain essential services that way.”
State data bares that out. Between 2008 and 2014, 7,000 employees were cut from the state rolls, leaving the workforce at bare bones level. Recovery of those positions has been slow or non-existent, with more and more money going to contract employees. A recent audit showed the extent to which contract employees in ODOT had cost that agency millions in project cost overruns.
The union has called for aggressively using the Rainy Day Fund to offset any cuts to essential services. “If this isn’t a rainy day, I don’t know what is,” said Mabe.
State budget discussions for next fiscal year (which begins July 1) between the executive branch and state legislators have begun and will continue until the budget is finalized by July 1.
Additionally, OCSEA and its International union, AFSCME, are calling on Congress to pass a robust funding package to state and local governments. See story below or go HERE to take action.