Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has ordered a two-month hiring freeze for state government jobs.
The Democrat is ordering state agencies not to fill any job vacancies during the months of May and June.
Brown’s executive order does not apply to positions considered critical to life, health or public safety. It also doesn’t apply to jobs that generate revenue for the state.
Agencies are allowed to complete job hires if an offer has already been made, but not if applications are still being reviewed. The hiring freeze was first reported by the Oregonian.
The announcement comes shortly after legislative budget-writers released a list of possible cuts to deal with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Brown said the cuts put the most vulnerable Oregonians at risk.
“This is unacceptable,” the governor said. “I’m calling for an all-hands-on-deck approach to protect Oregonians from these cuts and address the budget deficit.”
Brown’s office didn’t provide an expected amount of savings from the hiring freeze, but said it will establish a process to track the amount.
GOP lawmakers have also proposed a hiring freeze.
Unlike the governor’s executive order, the newest GOP proposal would last for two years. Caucus spokesman Jonathan Lockwood said an analysis from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office, or LFO, found the move would save $790 million over two years — although Lockwood did not provide a copy of the analysis.
Later in the day, LFO chief Ken Rocco provided details about how the $790 million total was reached. LFO staff asked the Oregon Department of Administrative Services for an estimate of savings that could be reached from a two-year hiring freeze. The answer: $1.1 billion. After excluding institutions and agencies that operate around-the-clock, such as state prisons, the Oregon State Hospital or state police, the number dropped to $790 million. Of that, Rocco said approximately $237 million represents general fund savings. The general fund is the source of Oregon’s discretionary spending, and is the subject of the $1.6 billion shortfall.
Rocco said LFO provided this figure to Senate Republicans, but he said the figure comes with a caveat. He said the DAS figures were based on a predicted attrition rate of 40 percent of all state positions over the next two years. Rocco said the analysis “finds this figure difficult to believe without further investigation.” Rocco said the LFO analysis also stated a hiring freeze as supposed by the analysis was “unworkable and impractical.”
Both the GOP proposal and the governor’s executive order came a day before a legislative budget panel is set to hear a report from a “Cost Containment Work Group” that’s looking at ways to reduce the cost of providing state services.
House Democratic leader Jennifer Williamson said the report will include “a realistic hiring freeze.” Williamson added the numbers in the Republican proposal “do not appear to be grounded in any reality.”
The governor’s hiring freeze drew praise from one business group.
Patrick Criteser, the chair of the Oregon Business Plan Coalition, called Brown’s proposal “a positive step on the path to the real, fair and lasting solutions.”
“The governor’s statement today increases our optimism that common sense solutions to these difficult problems are within reach,” said Criteser, who also serves as CEO of Tillamook Cheese.
The governor’s executive order also requires state agencies to explore ways to downsize their office space, particularly the portions dedicated to storage. Travel budgets would also need to be cut by 10 percent during the upcoming budget cycle.
In a statement, Brown said Thursday’s executive order is the first of several to come:
“In the coming days I will be making additional announcements on a series of actions to improve overall government finances and operations, including: improvements to collection of debts owed to the state; renegotiation of state vendor price agreements; providing clarity on executive branch policies regarding bargaining with state employee unions; and addressing the unfunded actuarial liability of the Public Employees Retirement System.”