Lars Rydell, who works in the office of the Finance Commissioner, said Maine has moved ahead with IT innovation where it makes sense - where it provides a cost-effective way of doing business or a better way of doing state business.
"People can file over the phone, they can file online, they can send in paper," he said. "If they send in paper on the income tax, there's an imaging and OCR [optical character recognition] system that reads all the information into the system. Over a long period of time, we've been developing this Maine automated tax system, which now includes all the taxes - large and small. All tax information is put into the unified automatic tax system."
Karin Peterson, director of systems and programming for Maine Revenue Services, said that although Maine is facing the same revenue situation as other states and is being a bit more conservative, there are plans to expand electronic services in some areas.
"We're looking forward to expanding the number of people who use the I-File and the E-File and the telefile," she said. "We're also expanding our data warehouse, which will allow better and easier access to tax information. We're loading information into it now, but we're looking at expanding the amount and types of data we put in and also the relationships of the data so we can have easier queries and get information easier."
By being resourceful with staff and trimming use of external consultants, Missouri has maintained momentum in e-government. "Missouri budget matters have affected the state's IT projects," said CIO Gerry Wethington, who credits the state's IT advisory board - made up of CIOs from all the various state departments - for much of the progress. "We're having great success in terms of moving toward enterprise architecture, declaration of standards, development of policy, and Web page common look and feel."
The state already has done the "big bang" projects, said Kay Dinolfo, director of e-commerce for the Missouri Department of Revenue, citing online income tax filing and motor vehicle registration initiatives. Now the department is working on legacy system improvements that don't directly affect the customer. "They do indirectly," she said. "Because the better we are at storing and retrieving records, the better service we can deliver on the front lines."
Jim Weber, CIO of the Department of Revenue, said the state allows tax filers to check the status of refunds online. "One of our larger challenges is to integrate all of our file systems so we can look at an integrated tax system," he said. "We think that within five years or so we'll have that integrated. We have 30 different tax systems, so our goal is to integrate those."
Wethington views the current economic downturn as an IT opportunity. "With all the budget cuts, what people are looking at is not how do you cut your way out of difficult economic times," he said. "It's got to be how do you innovate your way out of difficult economic times."
Nebraska used technology to cut its seasonal tax-processing work force in half. "Our first budget cut amounted to around $600,000," said Mary Jane Egr, state tax commissioner. "The budget for our core tax programs is around $20 million, so in the scheme of things it wasn't horrible. But oddly enough, that amount was exactly what we had budgeted for seasonal workers for the upcoming processing season, so we focused in on that."
To take up the slack, the agency did some "tweaking" of its processing system, publicized that electronic filers would receive tax refunds in seven to10 business days, and solicited volunteers from other areas of the department to fill in. Egr and others volunteered half days, opening mail and batching returns. The increase