Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Honk if you love smog and hate state employees

During his tenure as Utah governor, Jon Huntsman changed state government office hours to ten hours per day, four days per week. This simple change saved tax payers about $800,000 annually by reducing energy, janitorial, overtime and transportation expenses. Additionally, the 4-day workweek eliminated over 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating one weekly commute for 18,000 state employees and reducing heating and cooling of state buildings on Fridays. Surveys revealed that both employees and the general public preferred the new schedule.

The Utah state legislature recently passed a law, overriding the Governor's veto, which will eliminate the 4-day workweek and force all state offices to open on Fridays beginning this September.

Many Utah legislators will proudly boast that they don't care one particulate about air pollution. The disgusting smog around here is evidence of our leadership's indifference to the pollution problem. So it is not terribly surprising that the state legislature likes the idea of increasing carbon emissions by state-employed commuters by 20%.

However, these same legislators claim to care deeply about saving money and reducing taxes. Opening state offices on Fridays will cost taxpayers an additional $800,000 annually. How many Utah taxpayers want to front that check just so they can visit state offices on Friday instead of some other day of the week?

The Utah Department of Health told its employees last week that it will eliminate employee bus passes in an effort to save money. Employees who never contributed to Utah traffic congestion or air pollution while commuting in the past will now be forced to get into cars and emit some carbon. And they will do that five days a week instead of four.

The clear losers here, besides state employees, are Utahns who suffer from heart or lung disease like my husband, who becomes sick whenever the air quality gets bad (which is often). If you live in or visit Utah and like to breathe, you're being punished, too.

I have a great idea that will save a lot more money than cutting bus passes for state employees. Legislators, how about voting again on the state workweek? This time, why don't you vote to save money by keeping state offices closed on Fridays.

I promise not to mention the good you would be doing for the environment.  It would be our little secret.


  1. One of the reasons that I left Utah was that I would get really sick every Winter when the inversion would set in. I have asthma and the pollution made me so sick I could do hardly anything for days.

    Since moving to Portland, Oregon, I haven't had this problem once.

    What's the state legislature's reasoning for returning the work day?

  2. The only reason I know of is that a friend of a powerful legislator (who has an even less eco-friendly reputation than most) was mad because he wanted to renew a license on a Friday. Such business can be performed online any day of the week, but for some reason it is important to this person to do it in person on a Friday.

  3. April,
    I have been telling people here in Arizona that we, STATEWIDE, needed to follow in the footsteps of UT by going to a 4 day work week. I can hardly believe that UT has reversed course on it's successful legislation. I hope it comes to bite said un-eco-friendless legislature in the B-U-T-T.