Governor Brown orders hiring freeze as budget crisis looms

Republicans urge targeted freeze

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order freezing the hire of new state employees until the Oregon Legislature approves agency budgets for the upcoming biennium, which is currently facing a $1.6 billion shortfall.

The freeze announced Thursday begins May 1 and only applies to the current budget cycle ending June 30.

The potential savings are still being calculated, but any funds would be rolled into the 2017-2019 budget to help close the gap.

So far, government hiring and pay freezes haven't been part of negotiations in Salem, although Brown's office says any cost-saving moves will be considered.

In a report this week, proposed increases to government workers' compensation for the next two years was reduced from $145 million to $50 million.


Governor Kate Brown Announces First in a Series of Cost Savings Across State Government

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown announced today that she is signing an Executive Order implementing a statewide hiring freeze. This is the first in a series of executive actions being taken by Governor Brown over the next several weeks in response to the current fiscal shortfall and to improve overall government efficiency and operations.

Governor Brown released the following statement: 

“Oregon’s children and families deserve the chance to lead healthy and productive lives. But the cuts to the state budget recently proposed by the Legislature put the most vulnerable Oregonians even more at risk than they are now. This is unacceptable."

“I’m calling for an all-hands-on-deck approach to protect Oregonians from these cuts and address the budget deficit. That’s why I’m taking immediate actions to cut costs and find savings. Today I signed an Executive Order to put a hiring freeze across state agencies until their budgets are approved by the Legislature. This order also reduces state travel expenses and optimizes the use of state office space.

"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.

“The entire state must take responsibility and join in this effort. I have challenged state agencies to look for both short-term savings and ways to address long-term cost drivers throughout state government. I also encourage the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the Attorney General, and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, as well as the Legislative Assembly and the Judicial Department, to adopt policies that freeze hiring, reduce travel expenditures, and optimize facility usage.

“In addition, my office is working with the Department of Administrative Services to closely evaluate state agency operations. But, it will clearly not be enough just to tighten our belts. My office will continue to work tirelessly for an efficient, effective, and sustainable state government."


Oregon House Republicans' news release:

For fiscal sanity freeze hiring
Republicans denounce Democrat plan to throw off well over a quarter of a million vulnerable Oregonians from health care plans and to slash services for veterans and seniors
SALEM, Ore.-Today, Republican leadership at the Statehouse promoted their solution to get the state's fiscal house in order. Republicans say a freeze on hiring non-essential state workers should be enacted first and foremost, along with other administrative efficiencies. An initial analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) shows a hiring freeze for 'non-essential' personnel could result in significant savings, up to $790 million per biennium, or half of the Democrats' so-called "shortfall." This would require the governor to forebear pay raises and show spending discipline. A non-essential state workers hiring freeze means police, firefighters, first responders, corrections and health care providers are not included in the freeze. 
"We have options, we have solutions, and we have bills to fix the structural problems plaguing our state's government. We must move forward with a budget that isn't a list of red-alert threats. Senate Republicans are committed to listening to Oregonians who have clearly stated, repeatedly, we are not interested in hiking taxes and hurting the poor to satisfy overspending Democrat politicians," said Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, of John Day.
Senate Republicans in January agreed cuts needed to be made, but that government overspending shouldn't be done on the backs of veterans, seniors, other vulnerable Oregonians. This week, Democrats misleadingly claimed Republicans support the deep cuts to programs for vulnerable Oregonians like throwing off well over a quarter of a million Oregonians from their health care plans.
"Democrats proposed a cynical list of threats to our most vulnerable. They did this to scare people into thinking we don't have any other option besides tax hikes. But there's a better way: coming together and figuring out a budget that works, that protects all Oregonians," said Senate Republican Deputy Leader Tim Knopp, of Bend. "Oregonians can count on us to advocate for a 'Oregonians first' approach to the budget that puts government in its place."
According to the Register-Guard's Saul Hubbard, most Oregonians would prefer that state lawmakers close a $1.6 billion budget gap by decreasing spending rather than increasing taxes, per a new poll released by the Oregon School Boards Association.
"We are going to have our work cut out for us, with everyone up in arms over the proposed cuts, but we can do it. Once the partisan posturing calms down, I'm believe we will discern that Oregonians are telling us to get our financial house in order before they are willing to give us more revenue. They want long term solutions, but asking for new revenue to solve old problems won't fly," said Senate Republican Deputy Leader Jeff Kruse, of Roseburg.
Kruse added:
"The cuts are not cuts as people would think, in reality they are just smaller increases than they think they need."


House Republicans join Senate Republicans in call for hiring freeze

Salem, Ore. - Today, House Republicans joined Senate Republicans in calling for a targeted state government hiring freeze. House Republicans called the move necessary as lawmakers continue their work to develop a balanced budget this session.

“The budget environment we are facing is nearly unprecedented in our state’s history,” said House Republican Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte). “We have record and growing revenues, yet Democrats are saying we do not have enough money to pay our bills. In light of this, and in light of legislative Democrats’ hesitation to move forward with significant and comprehensive structural spending reforms, Republicans are asking Governor Brown to immediately implement a targeted state employee hiring freeze. This action has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars, providing protection to funding for education and other core services in the process.”

“The hiring freeze should exempt positions considered critical to education, public safety and other core services that vulnerable Oregonians rely on. I hope the Governor will work together with the Legislature in good faith to implement this commonsense cost saving strategy.” 

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