By Jon Ortiz
Published: Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2010 – 12:08 am

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued a message to top officials in his administration: Stop hiring.

The governor summoned agency secretaries and department directors after The Bee reported Monday that the size of the state work force overall remained essentially flat from January 2009 through June of this year.

Schwarzenegger did not order an official hiring freeze. But he wanted “to reiterate that we should not be hiring unless absolutely necessary,” said the governor’s spokesman, Aaron McLear.

The Bee’s report analyzed payroll data from the state controller’s office covering an 18-month period that included 17 months that state workers were furloughed a total of 46 working days. One furlough day equals a roughly 5 percent monthly pay cut.

During that time, the state hired nearly 23,000 workers. About 10,000 of them were full-time hires, roughly half the number of employees who retired from state service. The rest were part-time and temporary workers. Many of those jobs ended during the period reviewed.

Schwarzenegger’s meeting with high-ranking state officials may have a short-term impact, said Michael Shires, a state budget expert at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy: “After all, he’s still in charge,” he said.

But long-term, the state’s hiring practices are tied to the 2010-11 budget, now 63 days overdue from the beginning of the fiscal year.

“If the budget cuts spending, then absolutely the governor’s message will take,” Shires said. “If not, then once the budget is passed, the state will resume hiring.”

In January, Schwarzenegger told departments to cut their salary budgets by 5 percent by the July 1 start of the 2010-11 fiscal year. The order emphasized reducing the work force by eliminating positions vacated when employees quit or retire, but left it to each department to come up with its own plan.

But meeting that target doesn’t mean they have a green light to hire, McLear said.

“The point isn’t to just get to the (reduction target) and then start hiring,” McLear said. “The point isn’t to just maintain the current level of employees. The point is to shrink.”

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