Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is making the rounds of cable news channels and other national media outlets to pitch his new four-day workweek initiative for state employees set to take effect Aug. 4.
Tuesday, the governor appeared on Fox Business Network over the noon hour. Huntsman had already been interviewed by Fox News last week and has taped segments for the "Today Show" on NBC and CNN that have yet to air.
That's in addition to about a half-dozen interviews with radio stations across the country along with a number of widely distributed print outlets including USA Today and The Associated Press.
The story is attracting national attention because under the governor's "Working 4 Utah" program, Utah will become the first state to mandate a shortened workweek for many state employees, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
"I think more than anything, people are encouraged by the innovation and the ability of government to be proactive," Huntsman's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley, said of the media interest in the one-year pilot program.
The new schedule is expected to allow many state buildings to close on Fridays, saving Utah taxpayers an estimated $3 million annually in utility costs. It will also make state services available both earlier and later in the day Monday through Thursday.
Fox Business' Liz Claman all but gushed Tuesday over the proposal. "I think this is a gutsy move on your behalf. I think many people applaud you for it," Claman said. "I know many other states will be saying, 'Let's watch Utah at the moment."'
Her co-host, David Asman, was a little more restrained in his assessment, suggesting many people are skeptical of a four-day workweek accomplishing as much as a traditional Monday through Friday schedule.
"First of all, they think France. And they think, 'Oh we don't want to go where France has gone,"' Asman said, later suggesting a four-day workweek just gives state employees more time when they are at work to hang around the water cooler.
"There are different ways to measure productivity," Huntsman responded, "but one thing is for sure, nobody is going to know the answer until we actually get out and do something about it. You can analyze it and you can study it to death."
The governor told the cable channel that this month, his Cabinet is attempting to deal with concerns that have been raised about the shortened workweek, including the day-care and public transportation needs of employees working longer hours.
Huntsman said that Utahns who complain about government offices being closed on Friday will be told that hundreds of state services are available anytime online, such as renewing drivers' licences or applying for hunting and fishing licenses.
The shortened workweek won't apply to state courts, prisons and other essential services.The Fox Business co-hosts asked Huntsman to come back and detail how the program is working. "Love to do it," the governor said.
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