Electronic Government: Since you took office in 1995, much of your economic agenda has focused on reducing what you called "over-regulation and excessive taxation" of state government. Can electronic government significantly contribute to the new direction you have set for state government?

Pataki: The private sector has not only embraced e-commerce, it has made it a part of its economic growth and future. Government must do the same. The fact that New York is 3rd in the country in high-tech jobs is a clear indication that I see technology has a key role in our economic development efforts.

I announced an e-Commerce/e-Government initiative in New York state with the vision of creating a digital "government without walls." This initiative will change how government services and transactions are delivered in New York state, making the state more efficient and effective as it serves its citizens.

Reducing barriers to economic prosperity includes reducing delays, inefficiencies and frustrations in accessing and receiving government services, which my new initiative will do. E-Commerce/e-Government holds the key to streamlining government operations and providing better and cheaper services to citizens and businesses. If a business locates here in New York, the government will provide the information and services to that business online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are putting the citizens and businesses in charge of their relationship with the government.

E-Gov: We live in a world where globalization is eroding sovereignty, and where the Internet and a networked society are changing the face of commerce. What will be the legitimate role of government in the 21st century? How big or small should government seek to be?

Pataki: The role of government in the 21st century is to serve its citizens as efficiently and effectively as possible. Citizens don't necessarily care if they are dealing with a school district, state agency or a local government; they just want reliable convenient service. Government must be unobtrusive, convenient, and meet its citizens' needs. In short, 21st-century government will be what citizens expect and deserve. Government should be only as big as it needs to be to meet those expectations. I'm not talking about layoffs, but rather, using technology to change the paradigm so that government employees can focus on providing enhanced services to the citizens, moving away from being bogged down in a sea of red tape and paper-pushing.

Government must change and improve as the needs and expectations of its constituents change and grow. This requires that we make strategic investments in technology. Government must quickly remove barriers, such as I did here in New York in 1999 by signing the Electronic Signatures and Records Act. This law removes legal barriers to the use of electronic signatures and records in New York state. I'm proud to say our state was ahead of the curve, with this legislation signed over a year before the federal E-Sign law took effect.

E-Gov: There are serious questions about whether the current approach to taxation will work in a global economy, especially where transactions increasingly occur over the Internet. From my computer at home, I could, for instance, run a business located any place in the world, including tax havens. Do you believe we need to start looking at completely different approaches to taxation and to other options for financing government?

Pataki: This is a question that is of concern to all states and cannot be resolved by anyone alone. Clearly, every government will need to look at its tax structure, both the collection and use of tax dollars, as taxpayers will begin to expect their tax dollars to perform differently. My initial reaction is that New York is against taxing the

Blake Harris  |  Contributing Editor