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MPR report: State employment grew despite hiring freeze

Minnesota Public Radio reports today that despite Gov. Tim Pawlenty's hiring freeze for state agencies, the state payroll has grown. And that's even after counting thousands of retirements.

Pawlenty's order -- an executive directive -- came  Feb. 19, 2008, and directed state agency commissioners and board executive directors to implement hiring restrictions. The goal was to prepare for an expected tough budget situation, which, in fact, has happened.

"We wanted to put on a hiring freeze of state employees to say that 'We're going to have to do more with the same number or a fewer number of people at least for a while in state government,' " Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty's directive said "positions that become vacant from now until this directive is rescinded should be left unfilled in every possible case."

But a Minnesota Public Radio News analysis of state hiring data found there have been nearly 5,100 hires between the time of Pawlenty's announcement and April 21 of this year. During that same time period, 4,827 positions were vacated. Another document found that the state's workforce actually grew by 12 people between March 1, 2008 and March 1, 2009.

Some of the new hires, such as public safety personnel and corrections officers, are exempted under Pawlenty's order. But others are more questionable. Twenty public information officers, 20 education specialists and even a few automobile and van drivers were hired.

"We keep hearing over and over 'It's time to tighten our belts, do more with less, live within our means.' I don't see that happening with these kinds of numbers," said DFL Sen. Don Betzold of Fridley.

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