AUSTIN (KXAN) — During Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address Tuesday morning, he announced that all state agencies under his direction will institute an immediate hiring freeze through the end of the fiscal year.
Due to the budget shortfall — $104.9 billion, down 2.7 percent from 2016 — Abbott says no agency should post a new position or fill a vacated position. The positions that are exempt from the directive are positions not funded through funds appropriated by the legislature, as well as positions that have a direct impact on safety. KXAN confirms CPS positions will be exempt. Waivers can also be obtained on a case by case basis.
“By being good stewards of public resources, Gov. Abbott knows all agencies will be able to implement this action while continuing to provide excellent customer service to the taxpayers of this state,” said Texas’ Budget Director Steven Albright in a memo.
An emergency item allows the governor to set his legislative priorities. The legislature is prohibited from passing bills in the first 60 days of the session unless it is an item the governor has declared as an emergency.
Abbott also told lawmakers to get to work on better funding the state’s beleaguered child welfare system and banning so-called “sanctuary cities.” But, Abbott wasn’t specific about what a Texas anti-sanctuary law should look like.
Texas’ child welfare crisis has resulted in rising deaths and hundreds of allegedly abused or mistreated children going unseen by state investigators. The problem has worsened despite Abbott ordering an overhaul last year.
“Last year, more than 100 children died in our Child Protective System,” said Abbott. “You can vote to end that. We can reform the system so that no more children die in it.”
Abbott is also calling for a review of the state’s school finance system that the Texas Supreme Court ruled was only barely constitutional last summer. Abbott also called for school vouchers, an effort that has stalled repeatedly in Texas Legislature despite steadfast support from top conservatives
His next point was illegal immigration, which Abbott said must be stopped to keep criminals from conspiring with cartels. Abbott’s new agenda was expected to enthusiastically embrace President Donald Trump’s crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities. In Travis County, there is a battle brewing between Abbott and the newly elected Sheriff Sally Hernandez over this issue. Sheriff Hernandez released a statement describing how she will prohibit Travis County deputies and jailers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status.
The governor has threatened to cut off state and federal funding for not complying with a request from immigration officials to put a hold on jail inmates who may be here illegally. In Travis County, the funds amount to nearly $2 million.