GOP lawmakers push to reopen, Ohio’s budget, and Trump’s task force

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    Catching Our Eye:

    Pressure to reopen. Cleveland.com’s Andrew J. Tobias is reporting, “Gov. Mike DeWine facing increasing pressure from state lawmakers to roll back coronavirus closures.”

    “As Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says his administration is cautiously taking steps toward re-opening the state’s economy, he’s facing pressure from state lawmakers within his own party who are growing impatient and increasingly skeptical of his administration’s measures that have put hundreds of thousands of Ohioans out of work…

    “DeWine during his Friday coronavirus briefing reiterated the measures have saved lives and prevented the state’s hospitals from being overwhelmed…

    “State Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, a Warren County Republican chairing the House economic task force, said he’s not diminishing COVID-19 as a serious public-health threat… He said he’s heard from some who have questioned whether the number of deaths from the disease — 253 as of Sunday — justify the extensive closures, which have put hundreds of thousands out of work…

    “Sen. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican who’s next in line to lead the Ohio Senate, wrote DeWine late last week. He said his Western Ohio district — and rural Ohio generally — should be re-opened as soon as possible.

    The budget. Akron Beacon Journal’s Michael Douglas is writing, “The next coronavirus challenge is balancing budgets.”

    “For now, the governor has first in mind guiding the state to safety, as the number of cases increases, along with the death toll. Yet something else looms — a massive hole in the $70 billion two-year state budget, the result of shuttering a large part of the state economy to slow the spread of the virus. That action was necessary to prevent even worse outcomes, and the governor moved thoughtfully and decisively, aided by Dr. Amy Acton, the state health director, and Jon Husted, the lieutenant governor.

    “An indicator of the size of the budget challenge will arrive with the April revenue figures. The recent flood of unemployment claims has served as foreshadowing.

    “The state must balance its budget, a constitutional requirement. The governor already has told state directors to prepare for spending cuts as deep as 20%. The thinking isn’t that the decreases will be so severe. Even a fraction of that amount will put pressure on leading priorities. Recall the harmful fallout from Ted Strickland and state lawmakers reducing spending 4.5% in coping with the Great Recession.

    “Strickland and company also drained the state rainy day fund. DeWine rightly has argued this, too, is a moment for tapping the current $2.7 billion in savings.”

    Production. NBC News’ Jonathan Allen, Phil McCausland and Cyrus Farivar are reporting, “Behind closed doors, Trump’s coronavirus task force boosts industry and sows confusion.”

    “For weeks, Trump has resisted pressure to use the full power of his office to temporarily turn the private sector into an arm of the federal government in a national emergency. He and his lieutenants instead have used the crisis to make federal assets and personnel a support group for industry, rather than the other way around, according to NBC News’ interviews with dozens of public- and private-sector sources involved in various aspects of the coronavirus response.

    “In doing so, the vice president’s coronavirus task force — mostly through a supply-chain unit led by Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, vice director of logistics for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and heavily influenced by White House adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law — has favored some of the nation’s largest corporations and ignored smaller producers of goods and services with long track records of meeting emergency needs, according to officials at multiple federal agencies and people familiar with contracting.

    “They have operated almost entirely in the dark, releasing few details of their arrangements with the big companies; created a new and convoluted emergency response system; and sown confusion and distrust in the states and among the people who need medical supplies.

    “There is virtually no accountability for their decisions about how and where to allocate emergency equipment, a vacuum that has produced strong criticism from Democratic congressional officials, who are demanding answers.”

    David C. DeWitt
    David C. DeWitt is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience covering Ohio politics and policy. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, The Athens NEWS and Plunderbund.com covering topics such as education, health care, crime and courts, poverty, government, business, labor, energy, environment and social issues. His work has also appeared in Government Executive, the Columbus Dispatch, Girlfriends magazine, Bleacher Report and the Ashtabula Star Beacon, among others.