Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, of John Day, has called for a hiring freeze in Oregon’s public sector, saying it will ignite economic growth.
“A hiring freeze in the public sector will ignite growth in the private sector that has been suffering under the rapid growth of government,” said Ferrioli. “We should not be artificially growing government at the cost of the Oregon worker and their loved ones. Grandpa always said when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.”
The State of Oregon Employment Department data shows that government has had an explosive growth in jobs that has not been matched by growth in the private sector, which is the engine of the economy.
Additionally, the Taxpayer Association says that Oregon out-spends 39 other states and that our state budget grows twice as fast as population and inflation rates combined. State employees make almost double what average working Oregonians make, earning on average $89,000 compared to $45,893.
Whats worse, 35 years of double-digit growth has produced big scandals and billions in preventable mistakes.
“We must end the era of government gone wild.”
Ferrioli has it right.
Most states, when they confront financial hard times, put a hold on hiring.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, in an effort to strengthen state finances, imposed a state hiring freeze last year that whittled 1,161 employees from the payroll.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, whose state missed revenue forecasts last fiscal year and is forecasting a miss again because of declines in farm income, also put on a hiring freeze for state employees. “As Nebraskans, we don’t spend money we don’t have,” Ricketts said.
Businessess pull back when they face financial challenges, too.
Macy’s, faced with unfavorable earnings, decided to shut down 68 stores and cut more than 10,000 jobs.
Dow Jones & Co., like many news organizations that have been letting people go in the face of declining revenue, is planning to lay off dozens of reporters and editors at the Wall Street Journal because of persistent drops in print advertising income. The news and information business of News Corp, which publishes the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers, reported a 7% decline in revenue in the 4th quarter of 2016.
In December 2011, then Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was also facing budget troubles, ordered a hiring freeze. But when Gov. Brown released her recommended budget for 2017-19, she chose not to do the same.
In fact, with Oregon facing a $1.7 billion budget shortfall in the 2017-19 biennium, buried in the Governor’s Budget is a proposal to actually increase the state government workforce from 38,737 in 2015-17 to 39,412 in 2017-19. That’s an increase of 675 full-time equivalent employees.
“Using the cost information from the Legislative Fiscal Office, this 1.7 percent increase would cost the state more than $120 million in compensation costs for the 2017-19 biennium,” according to Facing Reality, a Cascade Policy Institute report offering alternative budget proposals. “A prudent step of a hiring freeze would free up resources and ward off some of the pressure to increase taxes, fees, and charges,” the report said.
An ever-expanding state is not sustainable without ever-increasing taxation. If Oregon is to responsibly manage its finances, an across-the-board rigorously enforced hiring freeze, with stringent requirements for exceptions and restrictions on hiring contractors, should be instituted NOW.
Then the size of the state workforce should be held down by careful pruning of ineffective and bloated programs and the hiring freeze should be continued in the 2017-2019 budget, which would encourage state agencies to optimize the staff they have.
Surely the governor and Legislature, with a state workforce of 38,737, can find ways to meet the state’s needs by adjusting the workload and assignments of that workforce.
In the end, the state and taxpayers will be better off for it.