CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin imposed a temporary hiring freeze on state agencies Tuesday, citing a continued slowdown in tax collections.The freeze is effective immediately and will remain in effect through June 30, unless rescinded. It bars government agencies from filling job vacancies, or positions that become vacant, during the period.Through February, tax revenues were running $45 million below estimates, primarily because of a slowdown in sales tax, income tax and severance tax collections."It is important that we reinforce prudent and sound financial management policies in order to avoid any budgetary shortfalls at the end of the current fiscal year," Tomblin said in a memo to department heads Tuesday.In a statement, Tomblin said the hiring freeze will ensure that key government services continue, while also ensuring state finances will remain in order when the 2012-13 budget year ends June 30.The freeze applies to job vacancies only, and will not result in layoffs or furloughs, Tomblin said.Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said there has been no sharp downturn in revenue collections so far this month but said the governor's order was based on ongoing slowdowns in tax collections."It's basically because of the deficits that occurred over the first eight months of the [budget] year," Muchow said.He said preliminary March collections appear to be closer to estimates, with the exception of personal income taxes. Fewer state income tax returns have been filed than anticipated at the point, probably because the Internal Revenue Service pushed back the date it would begin accepting federal returns this year, he said."At some point in time, these folks will file their tax returns," Muchow said.During the hiring freeze, agencies may make requests of department secretaries to fill specific job vacancies or, in some cases, of the Governor's Office, with the requests to be handled on a case-by-case basis.Agencies may fill positions that had job postings that closed on or before Tuesday, as well as any new hires that were being processed at the time of the hiring freeze.Positions that are funded through Lottery funds or through special or federal revenue are exempted from the hiring freeze, according to the memorandum.Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.