Panel: IT can close state budget gaps

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. ? State IT budgets will not escape belt tightening unless technology officials show how information technology can improve operations and save money.

Members of a panel on state IT budgets said Monday at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers Annual Conference that state governments are reeling from decreased tax revenues and high expenditures for Medicaid, homeland security, education and government employee salaries.

"[States] are getting hit hard from both sides," said Randy Bauer, state budget director with Iowa's Department of Management. This is happening because states have, for the most part, exhausted their financial reserves, the so-called rainy-day funds, he said.

Some states also are finding it hard to make additional expenditures because 2003 revenues have been extremely weak, Bauer said. More than one-third of the states are in dire budget circumstances, he said.

While state IT departments have been spared deep budget cuts so far, this may change soon, said William O'Leary, senior director for health and human services for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp.'s Public Sector, State and Local Government.

"IT is not the low hanging fruit in a budget crisis, but a year later [is another matter]," he said."

O'Leary recommended that states take the following steps to maximize their IT dollars:

  • Provide key decision makers with information they need to make decisions.

  • Leverage revenue streams to support IT infrastructure.

  • Leverage IT to maximize revenue and streamline government administration and operations.

  • Despite the inability of some state governments to begin new IT initiatives, the technology industry should expect homeland-security spending to remain strong at all levels of government, Bauer said.

    Those dollars will be used to prevent possible terrorist attacks and to improve cybersecurity to protect the economy against the growing wave of computer viruses and worms, he said.

    "Security is the buzzword in Washington," Bauer said.

    About the Author

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

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