Critical Services to Return to Five-day Workweek

utah capital
Photo Courtesy of iUtah TV

SOUTHERN UTAH – The local DMV will be heading back to a five-day workweek in September after the Utah Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto last weekend.

The Utah Legislature approved HB 328 during the last legislative session, which took Utah from a four-day workweek to a five-day workweek. Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed the bill over funding concerns.

State Senator Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) said the Governor’s veto was because the Governor claimed it would cost $790,000 to implement the bill.

“We just don’t buy that,” Urquhart said. “To get to $790,000, you have to assume that we’re going to do everything like we did before the four-day workweek. We’re not doing it the same.”

Urquhart said state agencies were able to find efficiencies in heating and cooling that will continue when the state returns to a five-day workweek, but staffing is critical on Fridays.

“Someone needs to be available every workday, but that doesn’t mean that every single branch has to be open,” Urquhart said. “We just don’t want a total closure on Fridays. People work five days a week. The courts work five days a week. Government is in our lives every day.”

Urquhart said it is difficult for the majority of Utah to be able to get answers needed when the state is closed on Fridays. Oftentimes someone would have a question about taxes, just to get a recording and have to wait until Monday.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “We call it the Working 4 Utah initiative. Don’t call it that. You’re not working for me today. You’re taking the day off.”

He said the biggest factor to cost is that not all employees at each state agency has to be open on Fridays – just essential services like DMV, who will continue to keep the extended hours that the citizen’s liked.

“You don’t need to keep every single office open five days a week,” he said. “There is so much flexibility when dealing with staffing. We can stagger those hours.”

Urquhart said there are many agencies where the employees do not interface with the public, such as payroll. Those offices can remain on the four-day workweek, he said.

“All agencies need some public availability five days a week, nine hours a day,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean all branches and all employees need to work 5 to 9. Many state positions don’t interact with the public (such as back office work); [so there is] no need for them to work 5 to 9. Also, even if a particular branch is open 5 to 9, employee hours can be staggered, so that employees can work [four days a week, 10 hours a day] – so long as public has access every work day.”

He said even if the fiscal note had shown $790,000 needed to fund the five-day workweek, it is paid for through an internal service fund that pays after the fact. The state does not have to pay the costs upfront.

“That’s one thing in government on the lag, we fund after the costs have incurred,” he said.

Urquhart also suggested putting more services online that would be available to citizens 24 hours a day. He said that is something the state has done well with and has saved a significant amount of money.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2011, all rights reserved.

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