Shorter Work Week Could Save Oregon Millions

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Friday, March 18th marks the first of two furlough days this year for state employees in Oregon, the second being May 20th. This is just one way the state is coping with the loss of state revenue due to the economy. This Fridays closure will save the state about $2 million dollars.

Another proposal on the table to curb lost revenue, includes moving to a 4-day workweek for state employees. House Bill 2932 is sponsored by Paul Holvey a Democratic Representative from Eugene and Kim Thatcher a Republican Representative from Keizer. The bill proposes that the state government essentially change their current M-F hours of operation to 7am to 6pm, Monday through Thursday. Thatcher proposed a similiar idea two years ago, to no avail. Citing Utah’s success with their initiative, he is putting it on the table yet again.

July of 2008, Utah’s Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. issued an executive order launching the Working 4 Utah Initiative. The one-year pilot project, began August 4, 2008 and changed the work schedule of most state employees from five 8-hour days a week to four 10-hour days a week. At the end of the pilot project, a performance audit was conducted of the initiative. The audit found that the switch has saved the state less than $1 million. The shorter work week also led to productivity issues among employees. A bill just approved by utah’s House this month will return Utah to a 5-day workweek. The measure passed 53-8 and now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Clackamas County launched their pilot program on Nov. 1, 2008 and made its four-day week permanent in 2009. Clackamas officials have estimated the county government has seen annual savings of $55,828 because of lower power use. They have also estimated $102,100 saved in gasoline costs. The County comissioned a survey of its residents prior to permanently enacting the 4-day work week. Gilmore Research conducted over 400 phone interviews with randomly selected residents. 44% of those interviewed said they thought the longer hours (Monday through Thursday) made it more convenient to visit County offices, but over half (51%) said longer hours made no difference and 5% were unsure. Those most bothered by the change, are residents who frequently need to obtain permits or access to social services. Overall, the survey revealed residents to be accepting of the change.

Moving most state agencies to a 4-day workweek, Oregon Legislature hopes to make our state government more effective and efficient. Ultimately following in Clackamas County’s footsteps with annual savings as a result. This is just one of several proposals in the 2011 Legislature aimed at making state government more efficient. Other proposals include shared motor pools, streamlining governement regulations and one even proposes abolishing the Department of Energy. Facing a $3.5 million budget gap, Oregon lawmakers certainly won’t be taking any proposals off the table just yet.

By Lindsey Asay

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