More than two months after Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day called for a hiring freeze in Oregon’s public sector, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has signed an executive order imposing a hiring freeze.
But it will only last until June 30 of this year. Too little. Too late.
In deciding on a hiring freeze, Brown’s no bold innovator. She’s following what more responsible states and businesses have done before.
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.
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 $1.6 billion budget shortfall in the 2017-19 biennium, buried in the Governor’s initial budget was 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.
“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 imposed for the entire next biennium.
Surely the governor and Legislature, with a state workforce that’s already at 38,737, can find ways to meet the state’s needs by adjusting the workload and assignments of that workforce.
Take a leap folks. Do the right thing.