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:
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.”