State Hiring Freeze Not So Frozen

Clearly, someone’s confused about the meaning of the term “hiring freeze.”

According to the state Comptroller’s office, a total of 955 employees have been added to the state payroll since May 2008.  Among those are a marketing staff member for the Connecticut Lottery, 21 state university employees and a Department of Transportation manager pocketing $145,000 a year.  All this while Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s been asking state government to downsize just like average families are doing.

The Connecticut Lottery is not bound by Rell's order, although she asked all agencies and departments not under her jurisdiction to follow suit with the hiring freeze. State colleges, universities, and the judicial branch are also among the agencies not under Rell’s reign, reports the Hartford Courant.

The new hires are needed, claim state officials, to maintain basic government services or are positions mandated by law. Others are said to be bringing the state much-needed revenue or are funded by outside sources.

But, some are saying that if parts of the government must cutback, everyone must. With the state facing a devastating budget deficit that could get as high as $8.7 billion in the next few years, the size of state government is coming into question.

Each of the new hires under the governor's control underwent an additional layer of scrutiny from the Office of Policy and Management until the decision to fill each post was justified, said Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Rell.

Of course, there’s some relief in knowing we’re not alone.  The nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington said that at least 27 states have forced hiring freezes to deal with budget issues.

And we’re not the only one bending the rules.  A review by the Associated Press found that states with hiring freezes made thousands of exceptions for zookeepers, dog wardens, golf-course groundskeepers, boxing inspectors and state fair workers.

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