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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Josiah Bartlett Center: 352 exceptions cost $6.2 Million so far

Government Data shows hiring and purchase freeze not draconian

(CONCORD) Government data shows that Governor John Lynch issued 352 exceptions to his Executive Order 2008-01 instituting a hiring freeze, a ban on out of state travel, and certain equipment purchases. The 352 exceptions cost a total of $6.2 million during the twelve months of fiscal year 2009. These totals are only for the months from July 1, 2008 through June 30 of this year and do not include the first four months of the executive order or the most recent two months.

In February 2008, Lynch issued Executive Order 2008-01, barring the use of the state's General Fund to hire new employees or fill vacancies, pay for out-of-state travel, or purchase Class 30 equipment. Health care, prisons, and law enforcement were specifically exempted by the executive order and are not included in the list of 352 exceptions granted. The order also gave the governor the authority to grant exceptions requested in writing by a department and required he notify the Legislative Fiscal Committee of any such approvals.

The 352 exceptions that were granted during fiscal year 2009 are in a report from the Department of Administrative Services to the Legislative Fiscal Committee, as required by the Executive Order. The DAS report shows Lynch has approved hiring 162 employees using General Fund dollars, along with six blanket waivers to state departments. Salaries and benefits for these positions cost $4.6 million in FY09. He also approved 140 equipment purchases totaling $1.4 million, and 40 out of state trips and four blanket travel waivers costing $153,000.

“Some people worried that a freeze would be draconian. Issuing 352 exceptions in 12 months shows just how flexible and perhaps misnamed a freeze really is,” said Center President Charlie Arlinghaus. “With exceptions being granted almost once a day, it's vital that this data be made more readily available.”

The center’s Lead Investigator Grant Bosse began looking at the impact of the Executive Orders on the budget two months ago. “When we first started investigating how state agencies were dealing with the hiring freeze, neither the Governor's Office nor DAS had a list of exceptions" said Bosse. "It's important to know where the Governor felt waiving the hiring freeze was justified, and we'll continue to gather this information as long as these Executive Orders remain in effect."

Arlinghaus added, “This is the kind of information that could be made available as it happens instead of in bulk after the fact. This data is at the center of the current budget crisis and some of it is fourteen months old. If the state releases this data weekly or monthly, we’ll be glad to post it online.

The complete list of exceptions to Executive Order 2008-01 and the text of the order itself can be viewed at JBartlett.org.

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