Modest IT program cuts anticipated this year, state CIOs say

PITTSBURGH - State chief information officers are expecting only modest program cuts this year despite staggering state budget shortfalls facing the majority of states.

An informal survey of state CIOs on the first day of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference held today showed that, on the whole, the group expects decreases of 10 percent or less in their discretionary budgets as well as agency IT budgets.

What's more, states are holding on to rainy day funds to help them weather the economic storm that is expected to last at least two more years, said Otto Doll, South Dakota's CIO.

To date, 28 states are proposing program cuts and 15 states are planning to raise taxes, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislators.

The survey was not representative of all 50 states, but merely an instructive tool for the audience during an educational session to provide attendees with a reality check on state IT funding and budgets.

State CIO respondents were able to choose whether their budgets, and agency budgets, would decrease less than 10 percent, more than 10 percent or more than 20 percent. Only state CIOs were allowed to respond to the survey.

Bob Bittenbender, former secretary for the Pennsylvania Office of Budget, urged state CIOs in the 24 states with new governors following the November elections to be wary of the political landscape as it relates to IT this year and to make sure they rally as many supporters as possible to ensure the safety of key IT projects and initiatives carried over from the previous administration.

Unlike many other programs, IT is handicapped because it has very few external players to influence the budget, Bittenbender said. For example, Medicaid and K-12 have senior citizens and families with children, respectively, to serve as vocal supporters. This popular support transfers to the legislature, he said.

He suggested government and industry work together to build such constituencies among the population at large and the legislature.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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