At roughly $15.4 billion, the deficit is so staggering elected officials might just need a miracle, or a magic trick, to close the gap. Sensing this, politicians are competing to see who can come up with the wackiest, most innovative cost-cutting maneuvers.
Last week, Queens Assemblyman Michael Gianaris joined the fun with a proposal that non-essential state employees cut back to a four-day workweek. In a statement calling for Governor David Paterson to consider the plan, Gianaris said it would save money, improve the environment, and even expand access to various state services.
Under the plan, non-essential state employees (those that don't work in sectors such as health care, public safety, or education) would still work 40 hours a week. Only instead of clocking a 9-to-5, five days a week, workers would shift to a four-day, 8-to-6 schedule. This would allow the state to close some buildings on Fridays, which would reduce energy costs.
According to Gianaris, the plan would save the government $30 million a year- a nice figure but still, in the end, only a drop in the bucket when you remember the enormous budget deficit.
Considering this, is it really worth the burden of changing the traditional five-day workweek? Doing so would necessitate a large-scale human resource effort to shift countless employee schedules, rearrange security measures, and redevelop new accounting methods and workplace policy. Gianaris believes it's worth the pain.
"With a historic budget deficit looming, we must identify innovative ways to make our state more efficient," said Gianaris. "Before deciding which programs to cut and which taxes to levy, we should first exhaust all efforts to do more with less." The four-day workweek, Gianaris argued, is a "win-win proposition."
While it would undoubtedly reduce the state's weekly carbon footprint, the labor policy reform would barely make a dent in the budget deficit. Gianaris deserves credit for thinking outside of the box, but his plan is too small in scope. Big problems require equally large-sized solutions.