April 29, 2010 By Steve Towns, Editor
BALTIMORE -- Widespread political changeover and unprecedented fiscal pressure could give CIOs a powerful opportunity to shape how their governors use technology in 2011.
With governorships likely to change hands in more than half of the states this November, CIOs could be well positioned to help drive the use of technology to improve both government efficiency and effectiveness, according to Scott Pattison, executive director for The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).
"Almost every new governor will come in and say two things: 'The fiscal situation is worse than I thought,' and 'I'm going to appoint a commission to look at reorganization and reform,'" said Pattison, speaking Thursday, April 29, at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference. "CIOs will have an opportunity to influence new administrations on where savings can be had. But you need to be ready because it'll be a short window of opportunity."
CIOs will need to come to the table with creative financing options, however, if they expect to see their proposals implemented. After two years of plunging revenue, some states are beginning to see glimmers of financial hope, Pattison said, but the budget picture is far from bright.
"I think we're looking at very austere state budgets for the next several years," Pattison said. "There will be tough competition for state general funds, and it's hard for IT to compete against areas like public safety and education."
State spending -- which historically grows by about 5 percent annually -- declined over the past two fiscal years, according to NASBO. And even as the economy recovers, spending growth among state governments may only grow by about half the normal rate for the foreseeable future.
In the current environment, it's crucial that CIOs suggest innovative ways to pay for IT projects without large appropriations up front, Pattison said. Furthermore, technology must be tied closely to policy goals.
"Don't try to sell IT projects to policymakers," he said. "Talk to them about helping achieve the results they want in transportation or health care."
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