Emails Fly on Telecommuting

In response to my post and the comments on telecommuting, Del. Tim Hugo emailed us and referred to the bill that was passed last year in the General Assembly and advised us of his new bill:

Many earlier telework efforts focused on identifying telework eligible employees. This bill works on the premise that all employees are eligible to telework unless explicitly prohibited. [Emphasis in original]

I’d like to thank Del. Hugo for reading the blog and championing this issue. James Atticus Bowden responded to Del. Hugo with these thoughts:

This bill is limited to state employees. I would offer this:

You mention incentive programs. You could specify comparing the cost of office rent/maintenance, heat, cooling, light, security, etc. vs telephone and cable at home. (If you have to pay for the costs for the office if the employee is gone, then never mind) Take the cost savings, if it was actual savings or 90% of it say, and put in a fund for managers and workers for year end productivity bonuses.

I recommend that you introduce a general public telecommuting bill. Gotta be careful what you measure and incent (it actually is a transitive verb).

The Commonwealth might reduce the corporate taxes of a business for every person-day telcommuting. In addition, the congested miles of highway (they were noted in the Hampton Roads study to justify the 02 Transportation Tax Scam) not driven (will require specifying the locations and the commuter telling his employer he drives those locations) for every person-mile could be reduced from the corporate taxes. How much? I don’t know in the absence of data. What is the profile for corporate taxes paid by revenue, number of employees etc. If I saw the data I could make a suggestion. It has to be worthwhile to keep the data and keep the worker at home.

Jim Bacon then weighed in:

If you want to provide tax incentives, then Jim Bowden’s methodology is a logical starting point for thinking about hte problem. Personally, I am concerned that our tax code is riddled with too many exemptions already. I’m a firm believer in creating as level a playing field as possible when it comes to taxes: Few exemptions and low rates…. But there are other things that the state can do to promote telework.

(1) The area where the state can legitimately help is in the area of infrastructure — ensuring that broadband is deployed as widely as possible. Broadband connectivity into employee homes is virtually mandatory for effective telework at home. Amazingly, there are large tracts of the suburbs, not to mention rural areas, where broadband is not yet accessible. Similarly, there may be ways for the state to encourage the accelerated deployment of Wi-Fi hot spots, so people can work away from their offices and their homes.

(2) The state can be more aggressive about using telework as a cost-savings tool for state agencies. My understanding is that Sandy Bowen’s study for improving real estate utilization never broached the subject of office sharing. By implementing telework and office sharing in its own departments and agencies, the state could save millions of dollars in office overhead while simultaneously taking people off the road! (I’m sure you’re familiar with John Vivadelli’s thinking on this subject.)

Maybe Governor-elect Kaine needs to have a few “town halls within town halls” to zero in on small, but relatively “doable” transportation initiatives–the pieces of buckshot, like telecommuting, not the “silver bullet” of a big money infusion.


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6 responses to “Emails Fly on Telecommuting”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    BRAVO!

    See how effective blogs can be?!!

    Thank you Mr. Vehrs for allowing us to be better informed. I would venture to say that most state employees would never have known about this bill especially those who work for managers that fear the concept.

    And also a huge thanks to Del. Tim Hugo for using this medium as a way to open the information doorways to otherwise information-starved citizens.

    I can’t wait to see what happens.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I am also unsure about the wisdom of additional incentives for the private sector. If the idea saves a company money, or if the employee sees a chance at a more reasonable existence, that is plenty of incentive. Many, many companies are doing it and of course many more folks are like me working out of home offices. Most local zoning ordinances no longer offer a barrier to a home office as long as you aren’t hanging out signs or bringing in customers.

    The expansion of broadband is also happening absent special incentives, other than those already in the code to reward major capital investments. At the federal level the IRS might take a look at some of its policies and practices — it is probably still the case that a home office deduction is a virtual red flag for audit (I’ve never claimed it and having brought it up, I think I’ll post this anonymously.)

    Going to the state’s existing policy, there may need to be some examination of liability laws, insurance products, other issues that crop up.

    If you think this solves Virginia’s transportation problems all by itself, however, you must be sitting at that work station smoking something that ain’t tobacco.

  3. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Now this kind of thinking is what we need in Richmond!

    As to whether this solves all of Virginia’s traffic problems, I beg to disagree. If even 30-40% of people could telecommute this would reduce peak rush hour traffic hugely. While I agree this cannot be done overnight, I think this approach has much more potential than many others. After all, even if we all agreed to the massive spending increases some are proposing to build new roads, it will be years before those will be built. Network infrastructure can be implemented much more easily and quickly.

    How about another possibility… As long as we’re talking about increasing broadband infrastructure and encouraging large-scale telecommuting, how about introducing the same concepts into our public school systems? Perhaps we could reduce some of the debt spending going on building all kinds of new schools that will be empty in 15 years when community demographics turn around. Instead, this investment in people being able to work from home, should also allow more children to be schooled from home, via the public schools yet!

  4. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: Cash back to state agencies for their managers and employees and to corporations for their stockholders (and managers and employees if they are smart) works better than good will. Cash talks.

    Reducing corporate taxes like this makes Virginia a more attractive place to locate new business as well as work better with corporate good citizens already here.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    30 to 40% is propbably impossibly high, but even 10 to 15% could make a big reduction in congestion. The length of the Queue goes up much faster than the delay in service interval. But you would have to get those 10 TO 15% to come out of the most congested job centers. No one knows if this would be the case, but the incentive is in that direction precisely because that is where the most congestion exists.

    Notice, that this is exactly the same as moving some of the job centers out of the city.

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Why is it that we prohibit home offices if they attract customers? What is wrng with hanging out a modest, unlighted sign? Isn’t that what the mixed use argument is all about?

    If I want someone to do as I wish, I generally have to pay them. If the public good generated by telecommuting is ten million dollars, and we wish them to telecommute, why shouldn’t we be willing to spend $6 million in incentives?

    Is it because we don’t think the savings are real?

    Would broadband or at least faster access be more available if certain special interests weren’t so opposed to, or increasing the costs of communications towers?

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