[State Representative Linda Flores Press Release]
(Salem) “Many Oregonians don’t know whether they can afford to take a trip across town this Fourth of July weekend, let alone a vacation across the state or the nation,” said State Representative Linda Flores (R- Clackamas). “I worry about families struggling to make ends meet, about our small businesses that rely on tourism, and whether state agencies will have to cut critical services due to skyrocketing fuel costs. It’s time to make changes.”
“There appears to be no end in sight to the recent trend for rising gas prices. That is not only troublesome for consumers trying to get to work and put food on the table for their families, but also for taxpayers worried about the impact on the cost of running government programs,” Flores wrote in a letter to Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski today. Flores urged the Governor to “take the lead and help keep a lid on these costs” by implementing some of the reforms used by other states.
Representative Flores said, “I hope our Governor will follow the example set by the Governor of Utah to change a large portion of state agencies to a four-day week.” The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports several states allow some of their staff to work a shortened workweek. NCSL estimates two dozen states have budget deficits caused in part to high energy costs.
Several colleges and city governments are also using the “4-10″ system, where employees work 10 hours a day, four days a week. In addition to flexible scheduling, in her letter Flores suggested, “more telecommuting, conference calls, video conferencing, and reducing the number of trips for conferences. Other ideas include increased promotion for the online services the state already provides and development of more web based programs. You could even reduce the amount of grass mowed at state parks and turn up thermostats in state buildings while encouraging employees to wear cooler, more comfortable clothing.”
Oregon state government has taken steps to reduce fuel consumption such as converting one-third of the Department of Administrative Services Fleet to alternative fuels: a total of 1,372 hybrid, ethanol, or natural gas vehicles. However, the jump in fuel expenses is still taking a toll on state programs. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office most agencies have not budgeted for these higher prices and will have to absorb the additional costs. For example, the Oregon Sate Police budget assumed gas would be at $2.70 per gallon. Even though the state gets a discount for purchasing bulk fuel, it’s still close to $3.90 per gallon. That’s a 45% increase in the past year.
During the 2008 Special Legislative Session a new law was adopted directing state agencies to reduce the amount of energy used in state buildings 20 percent by 2015. The Governor called for a similar effort in a 2006 Executive Order. In addition the Governor issued a Commuter Challenge to state workers and unveiled an energy plan last month which stated: “The Governor recognizes that the State of Oregon can lead by example and invest in energy efficiency.” Flores concluded her letter by challenging the Governor. “I am calling on you to do just that. Show Oregonians that state agencies can implement ways to reduce fuel expenses so their budgets don’t get so strained they are forced to reduce services.”