Tomblin enacts hiring freeze

CHARLESTON – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a plan to reduce state spending in response to slowing tax collections.

Effective immediately, all agencies within the executive branch will implement a temporary hiring restriction on general revenue funded positions.

“Throughout my public service career, I have adamantly advocated for and implemented plans to promote fiscal responsibility,” Tomblin said. “While we have fared better than most states in recent years, our nation’s economic challenges continue to impact our state’s revenue collections.

“The plan I’m implementing ensures key government services will continue to be provided to our people, and necessary employment positions to deliver those services will be filled. This will help us ensure our financial house will remain in order at fiscal year end.”

Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, said he heard talk Tuesday about the governor ordering a hiring freeze to reduce spending, but he has not heard about many specifics.

“They are trying to cut back on the budget,” he said.

Revenue from sources, including gambling, has taken a dip. State officials are looking to tighten their belts, Azinger said. Tomblin has traditionally been fiscally conservative, Azinger said.

Through the end of February, the state’s general revenue tax collections were $35 million below budget forecast. The slowdown in collections is expected to continue, the governor’s office said.

Azinger said the end of February represented one-sixth of the year. If those shortfalls continue, it could result in a shortage of around $210 million for the year.

“That could become a real concern,” Azinger said.

Azinger hopes this won’t delay the final 1 cent coming off the state food tax by this summer.

The hiring restriction will remain in effect through June 30 unless rescinded or extended, Tomblin said. The action is not expected to result in furloughs or layoffs.

General revenue funded positions within the executive branch that are or become vacant will remain vacant unless otherwise approved by the Office of the Governor, officials said. Positions funded by special revenue sources do not fall within this hiring restriction.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said he had not heard of the details of the governor’s plan, but said state agencies had to reduce their budgets by 7.5 percent before the Legislature went into session.

“I imagine that they will not be looking to fill any vacancies they might have,” Anderson said.