Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ritter Announces Hiring Freeze, Halted Projects to Save State Dollars

Facing a budget shortfall of several hundred million dollars, Gov. Bill Ritter today announced several steps, including a hiring freeze, to reduce state spending.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recent Office of Legislative Council forecast that projects the state would bring in about $300 million less in revenues than expected when the current fiscal year budget was approved last spring.

“These are uncertain economic times,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado is not immune from what’s happening around us. We must be prudent and we must be thoughtful in our planning. We must take steps now to ensure we have options should state revenues begin to dramatically decline.”

The announcement, which came in a press release from the governor's office, said his administration would:

1. Impose an executive branch hiring freeze for the Executive Branch effective Oct. 1. The freeze does not apply to personnel involved in the protection of the "health, life and safety" of Coloradans.

2. Ask colleges and universities and state agencies to delay new construction of state-funded projects through January 31, 2009.

3. Ask the state Department of Education to delay grants to school districts for full-day kindergarten capital construction projects.

4. Order department heads to scrutinize their budgets for additional savings and work with their employees to identify other money-saving ideas and strategies.

“I am taking these steps as a prudent, conservative and responsible contingency plan,” Ritter said. “Colorado's overall economy is doing far better than the national economy. But as the president said last night, the national economy has not faced such dire trouble in generations. At this challenging time, we must take thoughtful steps to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that we are able to provide essential services.”

GOP legislators had challenged Ritter to impose a hiring freeze earlier this week.