Clean slate

Eleven states will make fresh start on IT strategy in 2007

Who's new to the governor's chair

Alaska

Sarah Palin (R)

Arkansas

Michael Beebe (D)

Colorado

William Ritter Jr. (D)

Florida

Charles Crist (R)

Idaho

C.L. "Butch" Otter (R)

Iowa

Chester Culver (D)

Maryland

Martin O'Malley (D)

Massachusetts

Deval Patrick (D)

Nevada

James Gibbons (R)

New York

Eliot Spitzer (D)

Ohio

Edward "Ted" Strickland (D)

Even with money coming in, "there are still some tough choices for new governors," says Scott Pattison, National Association of State Budget Officers

Rick Steele

The 11 new governors taking office in January must quickly establish spending priorities and technology strategies to reduce state health care costs, improve education and solve transportation problems in metropolitan areas.

States in general have had solid revenue growth in recent years, but Midwestern states that depend on manufacturing revenue may have less money to spend than do Southeastern and Western states, which have seen better revenue growth, said Scott Pattison, executive director for the National Association of State Budget Officers in Washington.

But while state revenues have grown in recent years, so has the list of new projects that people want, Pattison said.

"IT is on that list, but it's on the list with a lot of other things," he said. Even with money coming in, "there are still some tough choices for new governors."

Projects of the past

Those tough choices often concern a former governor's projects, especially those requiring further funding. Among the first things a newly elected governor will do is meet with officials for a briefing on the state's many projects. That input will be crucial for the new governor to adjust the outgoing governor's proposed budget for the coming year, industry officials said.

"They have to decide: Are there big programs and projects of the outgoing governor that they keep, or do they have to cut the funding or phase those things out, so that they have money for the things they proposed?" Pattison said.

IT projects driven by new state leadership likely will focus on health care, economic development, education and government accountability, said Teri Takai, Michigan CIO and president of the National Association of State CIOs, Lexington, Ky.

Cutting costs from state Medicaid systems continues to be a major focus, said John Kost, managing vice president of worldwide public sector research for IT consultancy Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn.

"The Medicaid bogeyman continues to lurk and, despite flush coffers, state leaders would be well-advised to keep trying to tackle that issue," he said. "New systems and health information management systems will be needed to gain long-term control of Medicaid spending."

Economic development projects could take the form of statewide wireless systems, allowing for greater and faster Internet access to entice businesses to stay or relocate to a state, Takai said.

For government accountability, IT plays a central role with consolidations, strategic sourcing and shared services holding promise, said Matt Miszewski, Wisconsin CIO and a former NASCIO president.

Election equations

Making those decisions for the first time as governor will be the seven Democrats elected in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, and the four new Republican governors elected in Alaska, Florida, Idaho and Nevada.

New governors in Massachusetts and New York will have to get up to speed on major IT initiatives in their states.

New York has financial management, identification and access management and welfare management information systems that it wants to overhaul in the near future.

Massachusetts has been embroiled in controversy over its push to adopt open standards for saving and storing data. Two state CIOs resigned this year, blaming a lack of support for the effort.

Most of the winners were incumbent governors, of which 25 won re-election. The only incumbent not returning is Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R), who lost to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat.

Democrats won 20 races on election day, picking up six governorships previously held by Republicans. The Democrats now control 28 statehouses, while Republicans control 22.

In California, voters returned to office Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who initiated sweeping IT reforms through consolidated purchasing initiatives and centralized IT services by the California Technology Services Department.

Schwarzenegger and state CIO Clark Kelso now have four more years to further their agenda to enforce more efficient and effective IT spending, Takai said.

Another bellwether state for IT reform is Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry (R) won re-election.
Perry had brought in Larry Olson as chief technology officer to replace a patchwork of policies emanating from about 250 state agencies with an enterprise approach to IT decision-making and purchasing.

With Olson's guidance, the state legislature mandated that all agencies must buy IT through the Texas Information Resources Department. The new policy has driven joint purchasing up and prices down, Olson said.

"Larry is moving the state IT function into the role of service provider, an incredible and revolutionary move," said Wisconsin CIO Miszewski. "His changes will start to take hold during the next four years."

Staff Writer Ethan Butterfield can be reached at ebutterfield@postnewsweektech.com.

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