Christine Stuart photo
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero (Christine Stuart photo)

Lisa Roy, a legislative assistant to Republican David Labriola of Naugatuck, said that if she had the option to telecommute instead of driving to Hartford just one day a week, it would have a real impact on her family budget.

Roy, who telecommuted to the press conference at the state Capitol from her home office Tuesday in Columbia, said she can work from home “with much greater focus, fewer distractions, and without the stresses that my commute into Hartford from Columbia normally puts on my work hours … and my state of mind.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said the state has a program that helps private employers implement telecommuting policies, and that the Republican Party wants to lead by example, save taxpayers money, and reduce pollution by adopting a telecommuting policy for its 44 legislative employees.

In order to make that dream a reality for employees like Roy, Cafero said he needs the blessing of Democratic leadership.

However, Democratic leaders don’t seem to be on board with the telecommuting policy the Republicans have submitted, and it seems doubtful the majority party will sign off on the plan.

“We always knew the Republicans were phoning it in, now they want to make it official policy,” Derek Slap, spokesman for Senate President Donald Williams, said Tuesday.

“The reality is that the GOP plan would not save taxpayers any money and would not ease congestion. In fact, the only people the plan would help would be Republican caucus staff members. In these difficult times Senator Williams feels it’s more important and appropriate for elected leaders to focus on helping constituents – not their own staff members,” Slap said.

“It’s a concept worth looking at, but it is critical that no government service is compromised,” added Larry Perosino, spokesman for Speaker of the House James Amann. “Constituent service is paramount at the Legislature, and that may not be an efficient way to meet our responsibility.

“Sounds like there isn’t much going on in the minority offices these days,” he added.

Where does the governor stand?

Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell “is certainly happy to look at anything that makes state government more efficient,” however, “she has concerns about expanding telecommuting and work-from-home options from a practical standpoint,” Rich Harris, the governor’s spokesman, said Tuesday.

He said a majority of state employees give direct services to the public and are needed in their offices or in the field five days a week. “Unlike the federal government, the state has few back office jobs,” Harris said.

Of the estimated 60,000 state employees, Cafero said 140 have telecommute contracts with the state through the end of 2007. He said he understands a telecommuting policy won’t work for all state agencies and employees, but by getting just 10 percent of state employees to telecommute one day a week, it would take nearly 5,000 cars off the road each day.

Cafero said that Arizona state workers have converted 181,000 hours of commuting time into productive working hours and reduced air pollution by 175,000 pounds.

According to Connecticut’s own Web site, Telecommute Connecticut!, telecommuters save an estimated $1,200 per year on fuel costs.

Cafero said he also wants to explore a four day work week for state employees. He said in the House Republican caucus, senior staff members would stagger their telecommuting days to guarantee continuity of constituent services.

The Courant reported Monday that seven municipalities have adopted the four day work week and at least seven other towns are considering similar policies.

Click here to watch the press conference on the CT House Rules blog.