As The Olympian’s Brad Shannon reports, Gov. Chris Gregoire today ordered an immediate hiring freeze that’s designed to save $90 million. She took action in light of slowing tax collections as the economy limps along. (Note: I did my part this weekend by buying a $40 “Need for Speed” game for my Wii).
Below is Gregoire’s news release announcing the action.
I’d expect we’ll get some Republican reaction in short order. If so, I’ll post it here as well. Update: Dino Rossi’s campaign issued a statement in which he points out the increased state spending under Gregoire’s watch. I’ve pasted it below Gregoire’s announcement.
Gov. Gregoire directs state agencies to increase energy savings
OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today called on state agency directors to safeguard strategic investments in education, health care and public safety by stepping up their efforts to be prudent in managing their budgets.
Because of continued skyrocketing fuel and projected energy costs and a weakening national economy that is affecting the state, the governor today directed state agencies to reduce fuel consumption by five percent compared to last year, including a ban on non-emergency travel.
"I am asking each of you to step up your efforts to increase savings. I ask that you be creative and take action now," the governor said. "The high price of energy is hurting our businesses and our families. Anything we can do to reduce fuel consumption will ease the burden on our budget and on taxpayers."
"Along with limits on non-emergency travel, I’ve asked my agency directors to freeze hiring to fill job vacancies, shelve any plans to purchase new equipment; and avoid signing all but emergency personal services contracts," the governor said.
The governor called upon the presidents of higher education institutions, boards and commissions, and the state’s separately elected officials to develop their own plans to reduce fuel consumption and to impose similar freezes.
Gregoire noted that Washington state has a resilient economy as well as a budget with near record savings. These factors have contributed to Forbes ranking Washington as the third "best state for business" in a recent study, up from our fifth place ranking last year and twelfth place in 2006.
"In April, I signed a budget with near record savings through the Rainy Day Fund," Gregoire continued. "Through these investments we are better prepared to keep our commitments to Washington families and to keep our state moving forward. In spite of what is happening nationally we have made real progress and I am not about to shortchange the future of our state."
"These steps will put us in better situation for the next budget," Gregoire said. "We are in better shape than most states because we have saved over $800 million to smooth out the bumps in the economy, a fact recognized by numerous independent organizations that have increased their ratings of Washington’s economic stability."
And here is the Rossi campaign statement:
Is Gov. Gregoire Ready to Admit our State is Facing a $2.7 Billion Deficit??
Redmond, WA – Dino Rossi released the following statement today regarding the memo Governor Christine Gregoire sent to State Agency Directors, Boards and Commissions asking them to take steps to reduce state spending.
"I’m glad that Governor Gregoire has started to recognize the budget crisis she’s created. She had to know that by increasing spending 33 percent in her first term she was heading the state toward a budget deficit. Unfortunately, her announcement today does not go far enough.
"Dealing with the incumbent’s $2.7 billion budget deficit will require a lot of effort and belt tightening across state government. In the last four years the expansion of government has started at the top. As Governor, I will see to it that cutting waste starts at the top. I will reduce the size of the governor’s office budget, which has nearly doubled over the last four years.
"In addition to a hiring freeze, we should also freeze salary increases for politically appointed state employees. Further, Governor Gregoire should suspend salary negotiations with state employee groups over pay increases until we know the full extent of our deficit next year.
"Other governors around the country began tightening their state budgets months ago. In January, I called on the incumbent to use her supplemental budget to reduce rather than increase the total spending for the biennium. But instead, she passed a supplemental budget that increased spending by an additional $291 million."