Governor seeks pay freezes, cuts, as pandemic slams revenue

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget director said she’s seeking pay freezes and cuts for state employees as the coronavirus pandemic continues to depress tax revenue.

Updated forecasts for the budget year beginning July 1 show an even deeper hole of $2.5 billion in state funding, according to Kimberly Murnieks, DeWine’s director of the Office of Budget and Management.

In response, Murnieks said her office will ask lawmakers to freeze pay and step advancement increases for non-union employees beginning in July. A hiring freeze will also continue except for employees providing a direct response to the pandemic.

Murnieks also ordered pay cuts of 3.8% for non-union workers and 4% for cabinet directors, which would include her own salary. The office is also asking unions beginning June 15 to discuss ways to reduce personnel costs for the employees they represent.

Ohio’s unemployment rate hit nearly 17% in April, the highest since the state’s current record-keeping system was developed almost 50 years ago. In the past 10 weeks, about 1.3 million people have filed for unemployment, more than the total in the past three years.

The state Health Department said Monday Ohio has nearly 36,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 2,206 confirmed and probably deaths.