The Curry Coastal Pilot

Gov. John Kitzhaber imposed a hiring freeze for all positions on Dec. 13, but it's become a hiring slushy.

State agencies asked permission to fill 1,231 of the positions, according to a report in The Oregonian. A review committee approved 1,031. The other 200 have been denied or are pending review.

So 84 percent of the jobs are essential to Oregon government? We find it hard to believe.

An outright ban on new hiring could, of course, create problems. That's why the governor created the Hiring Exception Committee. He required state agencies to make a pitch for exceptions to the freeze. The committee andndash; made up of some agency managers andndash; decides whether or not an exception should be made. The trouble comes with the language for exceptions. It is broad enough to drive busloads of employees through.

There is an exception that does make sense andndash; if a position is necessary because of legal requirements. There is an exception that could make sense andndash; if an unfilled position might mean the state gets less revenue. But one exception is "if a position affects an individual's or the public's health, welfare, and/or safety or provides direct medical or physical care, supervision, or security of clients, patients, or inmates."

The language does not attempt to evaluate whether the position is worth the money. The language says "if a position affects." Unless an employee is completely worthless, how can they not have an effect?

There is another exception for positions that have a direct impact "on the ability of a state agency to assure accountability and economy in the expenditure of funds or the execution of programs." If a position doesn't have that kind of impact, it arguably shouldn't exist in the first place.

State government has shrunk since December 2010. The number of permanent state employees andndash; not in the university system andndash; was 34,519 in December 2010. It was 32,846 in January, according to The Oregonian. That's a shrinkage of 1,637.

But a hiring freeze means nobody gets hired. Oregon does not have much of a hiring freeze at all.

andndash; Wescom News Service (The Bend Bulletin)