Shortened government workweek could save tax money
The state is examining the possibility of a four-day workweek for some government workers.
Cutting a day off the conventional workweek for state government workers could prove beneficial to employees and taxpayers. Officials and legislators should begin earnest discussions with unions and the public to put together a workable plan that will not significantly reduce services. At the same time, state leaders should ramp up online functions to increase public convenience and consider telecommuting for suitable jobs.
These practices could reduce some rush-hour traffic as well as cut transportation and energy costs. With the price of gasoline continuing to climb, employees would save money as well as driving time. The state would spend fewer tax dollars on electricity bills for offices buildings and fuel costs for its vehicles.
Many municipalities allow employees to work a 10-hour day, four days a week instead of the usual eight-hour, five-day shift, or like Honolulu, flex-time options. According to the National Association of State Personnel Directors, most states give employees a choice to work four days a week.
In August, Utah will become the first state to go to a mandatory four-day week for the next year and other states, such as Colorado and New Hampshire, might follow suit.
There are hurdles, mainly acceptance of the change by employees and the public. For the former, the shortened workweek provides several advantages, including personal income and time savings and a longer weekend. For members of the public, there would be extended government hours in which to conduct business, albeit on fewer days, and less traffic at least one day a week.
Some essential services, such as health care, courts and law enforcement functions, would have to continue as usual. Also, public schools, colleges and university campuses would not likely fit the new model.
Parents would have to adjust since they might not be able to pick up children after classes and daycare. But they would have an extra day to spend with their families and reduced daycare costs.
Utah predicts it will save about $3 million a year by turning off lights, air conditioning and heating in 1,000 of its 3,000 government buildings on Fridays. Hawaii officials need to calculate savings, but with the highest electricity rates in the nation, the amount could be significant.
To make the change, state leaders will need public worker unions to sign on, which could be forthcoming since the Hawaii Government Employees Association has already made similar proposals for its new contract. Legislators might have to make statutory changes to address revamped operations. With the state's high energy costs and traffic problems, the idea should be given serious consideration.