- Associated Press - Friday, April 21, 2017

DALLAS (AP) - At least 30 Texas investigative jobs remain unfilled after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state hiring freeze in January in an attempt to save $200 million in anticipation of a budget shortfall.

The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/2oZlWgM ) reported the unfilled jobs include two at the jail standards commission and one at the Texas State Securities Board.

Over 50 agencies requested waivers to the order. This week the governor granted permission to fill dozens of positions to some agencies, including the insurance department, the environmental quality commission and law-enforcement agencies.

“Public safety is a top concern for Governor Abbott,” spokesman John Wittman said Wednesday.

State investigators respond to crime and safety threats in various areas. Some state employee groups and safety advocates said staff shortages have put the public at risk while potentially stalling justice for crime victims.

The state nursing board has three investigative vacancies. The agency notified the governor of 4,441 open complaints, a caseload so large investigators are struggling to keep up with the demand.

State investigators “serve a critically important role in society taking care of some of our elderly and most vulnerable people,” said Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union. “Their workloads are going through the roof.”

Hutchinson said while individual agencies sometimes stop hiring to get through budget shortfalls, Abbott’s statewide hiring freeze is “unheard of,” particularly because Texas isn’t facing a financial crisis.

The state anticipates a $4 billion decrease in revenue due to a downturn in oil and gas revenue. Legislators are considering tapping into the state’s emergency savings account, which has over $10 billion, the biggest balance of any such account in the nation. The governor warned legislators not to “loot” the fund.


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com

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