by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine by offering millions of taxpayer dollars and college scholarships through a raffle program appears to be legal, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.
Yost tweeted the opinion, but he stopped short of saying he believed DeWine’s plan was a was a good idea.
“About the $1M [vaccination] lottery: I heard about it yesterday. It doesn’t appear to violate state law, though it depends on how it’s designed,” Yost’s tweet read. “Just because a thing may be legally done does not mean it should be. The wisdom of it is a question for the Governor and the General Assembly.”
DeWine’s idea is for five weekly drawings beginning May 26, with each week’s winner getting $1 million. To be eligible, Ohioans must be age 18 or older and have had at least one vaccine dose. Those under 18 can win a full, four-year scholarship to a state college or university in a separate drawing.
The drawings will be funded by unused, taxpayer-supported federal relief money allocated to the Ohio Department of Health.
As of Wednesday, 41.8% of Ohioans have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Republicans and Democrats took swipes at the idea, questioning the use of taxpayer money.
“As elected leaders, we’re obligated to take seriously our duty to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron. “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis. Ohioans deserve better than this. I do hope people continue to get the vaccine and help our state reach herd immunity so our economy and way of life can thrive again.”
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, called DeWine’s proposal an abuse.
“I have always believed that a vaccine is a decision that is best left up to a person and their doctor,” Schmidt said. “Personally, while I encourage Ohioans to receive the vaccine – it is their choice – and using taxpayer dollars to incentivize something of this nature is an abuse of public resources, regardless of whether it is federal money or not.”
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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. He is regional editor for The Center Square.