Utah Senate leaders don't like the idea of a four-day workweek.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, questions Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s new program to cut costs and reduce energy consumption.

"I don't think this is a good idea," Valentine told the Deseret News editorial board on Monday. "And that's because I've had experiences in several municipalities that have used the same four-10 workweek."

Valentine said he's "had troubles" in the past trying to work with municipalities that have used a four-day workweek, like West Valley City and Provo.

Most state employees are now working four 10-hour days a week as part of Huntsman's new "Working 4 Utah" program.

The one-year pilot program is expected to save taxpayers "tens of millions" of dollars in energy costs, said Lisa Roskelley, the governor's spokeswoman. Not only will 1,000 of the state's more than 2,100 buildings shut down on Fridays, workers won't be on the roads, she said

For Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, it all comes down to service. And closing down on Fridays is not the best way to serve the public, he said.

"Government is there to serve the public," he said. "The real question to me is whether it serves the public most effectively."

State courts and all higher-education institutions are exempt from the new schedule. Many executive branch agencies will keep some or all of their services available Fridays, including Corrections, Transportation and Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Valentine originally believed the program violated the Utah Constitution.

"In my gut, yeah, just reading the plain language it just seems like it's not constitutional," Valentine told the Desert News editorial board.

The constitution reads, "Eight hours a day shall constitute a day's work on all works or undertakings carried on or aided by the state, county or municipal governments." That section is in direct reference to public works labor and was created to protect folks doing hard manual labor on dams or in smelters and mines, not sitting at a keyboard taking phone calls.

But by Monday afternoon, Valentine did a little more research and now believes the program does not violate the constitution.

So what changed his mind?

In 1969, the Legislature changed state statutes to recognize that the constitution's eight-hour workday did not apply to all government employees. Instead, it says, "Forty hours shall constitute a working week on all works and undertakings carried on by the state, county, or municipal governments ...."

Valentine is skeptical of the program but said he'll support Huntsman during the one-year trial.

"I'm prepared to support the governor in his one-year trial," he said. "Let's see how it goes, and let's see if it works or not."


E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com