State hiring, travel freeze

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State employees are on travel restrictions as of today, with no travel out of state permitted for State business.

In addition, the Governor’s Office has implemented a hiring freeze due to the sudden drop in the price of oil.

The order came from a memo issued by Chief of Staff Ben Stevens, who pointed to the volatility in global oil markets as he announced an “immediate suspension of out-of-state travel for ALL employees and an immediate hiring freeze to reduce the impact on the state general funds.”

The hiring freeze applies to all positions, except for those necessary to protect the health and safety of Alaskans, he said.

Departments may request a waiver from the hiring freeze due to extraordinary circumstances, which he outlined in his memo.

The freeze does not apply to Alaska State Troopers, corrections and probation officers, and other public safety personnel, or employees at the state’s 24-hour institutions.

Stevens “strongly encouraged” several agencies to adopt their own out-of-state travel restrictions and hiring freezes. They include Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation, Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and others.

Senate President Cathy Giessel also put out a notice to the Senate, restricting Senate travel and discouraging personal travel out of state, but her restriction was to “protect our legislative family and the function of the legislature while we are in session in Juneau,” referring to the current outbreak of the Wuhan virus.

5 COMMENTS

  1. One would have thought that a hiring freeze was already in place. This is an example of where the governor does not understand the optics of his and the state’s situation. Since he took office there should have been a hiring freeze overridden by some HR czar. The message to state employees and the state’s population would have been obvious. Instead the state goes along with business as usual while at the same time telling us we have fiscal crisis.

  2. Giessel’s legislative family? All of Giessel’s family broke rank. Maybe Edgemon is all Giessel has left.

  3. The state implemented hiring restrictions Feb 2019. Positions being recruited for since then are deemed essential. Interestingly, the restrictions have been in place in essentially the same form since early in the Walker admin. The Dunleavy update in Feb 2019 was not substantial. You can’t just stop hiring — even this governor recognizes that we want to keep some state services in place and in those service channels you have to fill positions that open up because of standard turnover.

  4. I went through a lot of hiring and travel freezes in my State career; every one was just a PR event. If you were somebody who was anybody in State government, you could travel if you wanted and you could hire when you wanted; you just might have to jump through a hoop or two.

    The fact is that most out of State travel is just for a junket. There might be some value in the director of widget making being a member of the National Association of State Directors of Widget-making and going to some nice, warm big city with professional sports teams for its annual meeting, but most of the value goes to the director of widget-making, not to the State, and s/he usually tacks on a side trip to the State paid trip. Since the people in all these groups are all themselves pretty accomplished bureaucrats, they usually put the cost of the annual meeting into the dues, so once the State has paid your dues, you don’t have to get a separate travel authorization. Generally, it is simply a scam.

    Most public employee training is just a scam. The training is usually worthless and they don’t take attendance or test what you learned. You show up on the first day, sign in and eat the continental breakfast, and don’t come back; there is golf, professional sports, really nice strip joints; why bother with a boring class? Since you signed in, they’ll send you your certificate to put in your personnel file or hang on your “I Love Me” wall.

    Anyway, it’s a nice symbolic gesture, but I’m willing to bet that the Administration won’t enforce it; anybody who is anybody will be able to travel as they please and hire whom they please.

  5. In Anchorage, we instituted a travel and hiring freeze within days of taking office in 2009, in order to deal with a $25 plus million budget deficit. To make it work, we formed a cost containment committee that reviewed every single request for an exception. They were tough and very few requests for exceptions were approved. It made a difference and was one of the strategies that the bond agencies liked as we worked our way to a AAA bond rating. It can be done but there has to be folks with the backbone to say no.

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