Alaska governor institutes hiring freeze and travel restrictions for most state departments

Gov. Bill Walker's administration on Tuesday put in place a hiring freeze and travel restrictions for state workers, citing Alaska's ongoing budget crisis.

Hiring for empty state jobs is barred, effective immediately, with exceptions for positions that protect Alaskans' life and safety, according to a memo issued Tuesday by Walker's chief of staff, Jim Whitaker.

Exemptions exist for Alaska state troopers, corrections and probation officers, and certain health care workers. And department commissioners can request extra exemptions if they think a job is "mission critical" and can't be done by realigning other state workers, Whitaker's memo said.

Non-essential travel was also barred as of Tuesday. That includes travel to trade association and training conferences, but it doesn't apply to travel necessary to do state work like audits, inspections and enforcement, Whitaker's memo said.

All travel must be approved by department commissioners, and any out-of-state travel must be approved by Whitaker or a deputy.

The move by Walker's administration comes more than a year after House and Senate leaders asked the governor to consider a hiring freeze and travel restrictions — though three of those leaders attended a conference in Seattle in August.

In a prepared statement, Walker said many state agencies have already implemented cost-cutting measures. Tuesday's announcement, he added, creates "a consistent standard and process across the administration."


The moves come as the Legislature prepares to convene this month in Juneau, where lawmakers will consider a wide-ranging proposal by Walker to close Alaska's $3.5 billion budget deficit.

"As we worked on our fiscal plan, the comment my team and I heard most from Alaskans is that we must continue to rein in spending," Walker's statement quoted him as saying. "These restrictions on hiring and travel alone won't fix the deficit, but it's an important step."

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com