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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

More states looking at 4-day workweeks

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SALT LAKE CITY - Six months after Utah became the first state government in the nation to adopt a four-day workweek, the experiment is attracting interest from other states trying to ease their financial problems.

"Why? Three words: Massive. Budget. Deficit," said New York state Rep. Michael Gianaris, a Democrat who says his state would save $30 million with the switch.

Utah switched to a four-day week last year to save on electricity, gasoline, and other energy costs.

The change affected 17,000 state employees, who now work 10 hours a day, four days a week.

These days, employees have embraced the long weekends, and the public has grown accustomed to agencies being closed on Fridays. Officials say absenteeism and overtime are down.

A report released this month by Gov. Jon Huntsman shows the move will cut greenhouse gas emissions more than 12,000 metric tons, reduce gasoline consumption among commuting employees by 744,000 gallons annually, and pump as much as $3 million into the economy from workers spending less on gas.

Other states are taking note. Hawaii tried a limited four-day week this fall, and a similar program is under way in Washington state.

A hiring freeze and budget cuts have made it difficult to tell if Utah's shorter workweek will attract job applicants.

But existing employees have found the schedule offers flexibility.

"I don't have kids, so it doesn't complicate my personal life. It actually frees up my weekend, and I like that more," said Danielle Downey, a compliance specialist for the state's insect programs.

Complaints about closed offices have dropped, and wait times at the Division of Motor Vehicles are falling because the agency has extended hours four days a week.

Initially, Mr. Huntsman's staff aimed to close 1,000 of the state's 6,000 buildings on Fridays. College campuses, courthouses, liquor stores, veterans hospitals, and emergency services remain open on Fridays.

However, the state has been able to close only 900 buildings. Of those, about 500 are being leased, which reduces the energy savings.



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