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Gov. Gary Herbert saves state employees' four-day workweek with veto

Published: Wednesday, March 30 2011 7:04 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed four bills on Wednesday, the final day he could take action on legislation from the 2011 general session, including an attempt to end the state's four-day work week.

Lawmakers have the opportunity to override the vetoes if they can muster the two-thirds majority needed.

"Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen," Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said. "Some people just don't like override sessions … other people think these are very good bills."

Herbert signed all other bills passed by the 2011 Legislature.

He said in a statement that he vetoed HB328, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, because "the people of Utah have grown accustomed to extended Monday through Thursday hours" and eliminating those "would be too disruptive, and simply bad policy."

However, the governor said he was issuing an executive order Wednesday mandating that by Oct. 1, all state agencies will make "critical, public-facing services" available on Friday either in person, online or with telephone support.

Herbert also said the bill was not funded and was unconstitutional because it "constitutes an unwarranted intrusion" on the powers of the governor.

The bill would have required offices to reopen on Fridays. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. had established the shorter work week in an effort to save the state money on energy costs.

Huntsman's projected $3 million savings from the switch made in 2008 fell far short. Herbert made the move permanent after he took over the office a year later, based largely on surveys that showed both employee and the public support.

Noel said during the session that the needs of Utahns weren't being met by the Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule. He said the shortened work-week was not business-friendly.

The other bills Herbert vetoed are SB229, which would have earmarked additional sales taxes for transportation projects; SB294, which would have changed health insurance plan options and costs; and SB305, which would have used a Web-based tool to align education with the needs of the business community.

Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he'll push to override the veto of his bill, SB229.

"This simply gives us a goal and maintains the commitment we have to infrastructure," Adams said, noting his bill would help the state move toward doubling the 8 percent of the general fund now being spent on roads. "If not, we're going to see a gas tax increase."

But the governor said the earmark would mean less money for schools, human services and other budget priorities. "The recent past has taught us that economic tides can turn quickly," Herbert said. "To maintain our position as the best-managed state in the nation, Utah must be able to react quickly to changed financial circumstances."

Lisa Riley Roche

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