Governor Fitial is proposing across-the-board cuts in government employment. He proposes a 4 day work week, which he wants to get with Legislative approval, but which he will implement in other ways, if he doesn't get such sanction. Without congressional support, the cuts would likely effect fewer employees than with it, but the cuts will definitely be felt.
Ed has already published a critical post on his blog, Marianas Pride.
I do not think our Governor has ever given us the full picture on revenues, so that our Legislature cannot realistically assess the situation and plan a proper budget. I say this because, despite the dire situation as insisted by our Governor, he had no difficulty coming up wiht $400,000 for the federalization lawsuit. That is not chump change.
I suspect the money comes from class-action settlements, or some other source of revenue that has not been disclosed in the projected CNMI revenues for Legislative use in budgeting.
I think our Legislators should be actively supporting Tina Sablan's efforts to find out how the federalization lawsuit is being funded. And they should be demanding an accounting of all money, no matter how it finds its ways into the government till. And I think the Governor should not be able to spend money without Legislative authorization.
But all of that said, I think we need to assess the idea of a 4-day work week independently of the proponent, independently of the professed reason for it. I'm not fan of Governor Fitial, but that doesn't mean I am going to automatically disagree with everything he says and does.
For example, in the U.S., about 16% of city governments have 4-day work week options. City government agencies in Maryland, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington state,and Arizona have started using the 4 day work week. Utah has recently mandated the 4-day work week on a state-wide basis, according to a July 2008 USA news report. Closer to home, Hawaii has also experimented with the 4-day work week.
What positives come from a 4-day work week? When utilized on a large scale, the effect is staggering. The most notable is an improvement in our "carbon footprint" as fewer people are commuting to work. You can read some of the math computations and information in this article about 16 reasons in support of the 4-day work week.
What about the personal loss of income from reduced hours? Some of the 4-day work week programs still provide for 40 hour weeks, just divided up into 4 days-so workers would work 10 hours/day rather than 8. But some of the proposals, on the table or implemented, reduces hours and contend that 4 days/32 hours produces the same amount of productivity over time as a 5-day week of 40 hours, because workers become more productive with the freedom to have time off. And greater productivity, greater savings on energy, means that employers can actually pay more per hour.
For sure, there is not universal acclaim for the 4-day work week. The federal OPM opposes the notion. And in Oregon, there is strong objection to a 4-day work week being used in the public school system.
But the 4-day work week is a very happening topic now, with both private businesses and small governments opting for this choice, despite the concerns.
While the debate over a shorter-work week raged in Europe in the 1990's, it's being discussed and implemented now in New Zealand, and Great Britain and elsewhere around the globe. It's even made it to you tube!
Should we jump on the bandwagon? Well, no. But should we consider and research and discuss the idea seriously?
I think so.