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Oregon Governor Orders Two-Month State Government Hiring Freeze

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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.

The governor's exeutive order does not apply to positions that are 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 the job hiring if an offer has already been made, but not if applications are still being reviewed.

The announcement comes soon after legislative budget-writers released a list of possible budget cuts to deal with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

Brown said the cuts put the most vulnerable Oregonians at risk.

"This is unacceptable,” she 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. Senate Republicans first made the proposal in March, and repeated their calls Thursday for a halt on filling state jobs. Unlike the governor's executive order, the newest GOP proposal would last for two-years.

A caucus spokesman says the move would save $790 million over two years, although details about how that total was reached were not provided, other than to say the hiring freeze would not include institutions and agencies that operate around-the-clock, such as state prisons, the Oregon State Hospital, and Oregon State Police.

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 said 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 the governor'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 the 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. The order also requires agencies to reduce their travel budgets by 10 percent during the upcoming budget cycle.

The governor said Thursday's executive order is the first of several to come.

Brown said in  statement, “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."

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.