Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor, said yesterday that he would pursue a four-day, 40-hour workweek for as many state workers as possible to help reduce energy costs and relieve traffic congestion.
The Lingle administration conducted pilot projects at the state Department of Human Resources Development and the state Department of Health in 2008 that found modest energy savings and traffic reduction with a four-day workweek. The administration found that the change saved about 6 percent in energy costs at DHRD’s offices at the State Office Tower and about 13 percent at DOH’s Kinau Hale Building. The administration estimated that 51 percent of DHRD workers and 40 percent of DOH workers involved did not use their automobiles during peak traffic hours on the Fridays they had off.
Aiona said a four-day workweek would be beneficial only if most workers involved took the same day off. He said any expansion of the idea would have to be done in collaboration with public-sector labor unions.
"I firmly believe that that would make a significant impact in regards to traffic and quality of life and, of course, our environment and saving in the cost of government," Aiona said at a news conference at his campaign headquarters, where he talked about his transportation and health care proposals.
Aiona said he would continue with the Lingle administration’s infrastructure improvements to airports, harbors and highways.
The lieutenant governor also said he would press for medical-malpractice insurance reform. He favors a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits, a proposal that has been consistently rejected by majority Democrats in the state Legislature. The state has a $375,000 cap on pain and suffering damages, but patients can avoid the cap by claiming emotional distress or loss of companionship, which are other forms of noneconomic damages.
Aiona, who has made healthy living a theme as lieutenant governor, said he would promote diet, exercise and regular medical checkups as preventive steps to reduce health care costs.
Aiona said he favors preserving a federal exemption for the state’s Prepaid Health Care Act of 1974, which requires businesses to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours a week. The exemption was preserved in the federal health care reform law passed by Congress and President Barack Obama, but could come into conflict with provisions of the federal law once it is fully implemented.
Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Aiona’s plans are basically a continuation of Gov. Linda Lingle’s agenda. Au said she believes people want new leadership.
"The Lingle-Aiona administration couldn’t get its proposals accomplished in eight years," she said in a statement. "Four more years won’t make a difference if we can’t get beyond the gridlock and inaction that has been characteristic of government in Hawaii under the current administration."