Va. To Unveil Tax Revenue-Sharing System

Va. To Unveil Tax Revenue-Sharing System

By John Makulowich
Senior Writer

The state of Virginia will soon follow the lead of other states and outsource tax collection and customer service, said Donald Upson, the state's first secretary of technology.

Using this approach, the state can acquire the latest equipment and gain access to private sector input without a significant investment, Upson told Washington Technology in an interview.

The vendor would build and manage the system and share revenues for a short time, said Upson, who assumed his post May 21. Republican Gov. James Gilmore "will have an announcement on this soon," he added.

"Technology is becoming a significant component of tax collection," said Upson, 43, who brings 20 years of government, corporate and high-technology experience to Virginia state government. He joined Litton-PRC, McLean, Va., as vice president of strategic communications in 1992 and previously was the Republican staff director of the House Government Operations Committee.

Virginia's game plan follows the lead of California and Kansas, which have used a performance-based approach to tax collection with success. Upson said such tax collection is more efficient and more responsive to customers, is creative in its financing and allows the vendor to recoup its investment.

In outlining the challenges he faces in the coming months, Upson placed putting together a management structure for his new department at the top of his list. He noted that this involves two functions: operations and policy.

On the operations side, Upson said, the challenge will be to instill in those organizations and departments a sense that there is a vision wrapped around acquisition and the use of technology.

"We seek to create an infrastructure that can link to local government, education and libraries, so that when Gov. Gilmore talks about policy, he can point to his own government as a model," Upson said.

Upson also will chair the Blue Ribbon Commission on Information Technology created by Gilmore in late May. It will develop a strategy to train, educate and support a technology work force through higher education, and develop policy recommendations to encourage the location and expansion of IT business through tax and regulatory infrastructure reform.

The commission also will develop a business strategy to encourage statewide investment in information and advanced technology businesses, focusing on regions with specific employment and economic development needs.

According to Upson, the commission addresses the policy function with plans for three cabinet officers, six legislators and 21 technology leaders from around the state.

"Our approach will be not government out, but business in. For example, we want business to define for us its work force needs, the level of job classification and the type of education required," Upson said.

He noted Virginia already enjoys a favorable business environment on tax and regulatory issues. What he intends to do is expand on that and reinforce Gilmore's strategy of statewide investment.

"We want to serve as a catalyst to encourage executives to think about a statewide technology investment strategy, to consider the kinds of incentives needed to entice them to expand their business internally," Upson said.

The ultimate goal of the technology office and the numerous initiatives is not just to project Virginia as a technology innovator, but as a national technology leader. n

"Gov. Gilmore wants IT leaders to start thinking about Virginia as one state, not divided into northern and southwestern sections. The goal is recognition of Virginia as a technology state," said Upson. n

Donald Upson

Don Upson's Charter:

Manage Virginia's Department of Information Technology, Council on Information Management, and Century Date Change Initiative Project Office. All three units will be transferred from the Secretary of Administration.

(The Department of Information Technology provides IT, database processing and telecommunications services to state and local governments. The Council on Information Management promotes coordinated planning, acquisition, development and use of IT resources in state government and higher education. The Century Date Change Initiative Project Office is responsible for ensuring compliance with the year 2000 software conversion issue).

Serve as chairman of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Information Technology. It will address three areas critical to Virginia's technology industries: work force education and training; the tax and regulatory environment affecting technology businesses and a statewide technology investment strategy.

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