OSAKA (Bloomberg) More than half of retiring Osaka prefectural employees have declined to pose with Gov. Toru Hashimoto for memorial photographs after the debt-ridden government started charging for the service as part of cost cuts.

The prefecture this year told 687 retiring employees to pay between ¥1,100 and ¥2,500 each for the pictures, spokesman Eiji Nishino said Tuesday.

Last year, the prefecture spent ¥300,000 to cover the cost of the photos, he said.

About 40 percent of retirees this year asked for the photo, down from about 80 percent last year. An employees aid organization has since agreed to pay for the photos taken with Hashimoto in front of the prefectural headquarters, Nishino said.

The move by Hashimoto, who was elected last year on a promise to reduce Osaka Prefecture’s ¥5 trillion budget deficit, is an austerity measure, Nishino said.

“I know it’s not a good thing to collect money from people who have been contributing to the government for more than 40 years,” he said. “But we want them to understand how bad our budget situation has become.”

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