February 28, 2006 By Government Technology
When you're the CFO of the sixth-largest economy in the world, you've got plenty of balls in the air. It doesn't help when you put a few of those balls in the air yourself.
Steve Westly, elected in 2002 as California's state controller, came to the state from eBay. It didn't take him long to start pushing for technology upgrades in the State Controller's Office.
He and his staff now find themselves neck deep in the 21st Century Project -- the replacement of California's legacy human resources and payroll systems. The goal is to give California an IT system for human resources that's flexible and can accommodate a combination of decentralized and centralized human resource information, Westly said.
"It's one of the biggest IT projects in California's history, and it's gone pretty much on schedule. I appreciate the commitment from the governor's office to this, and it's going to take California state government's billing practices into the 21st century."
Westly also said the project looks to bring modern functions to the state's payroll operations, such as a bi-weekly payroll system that can be used for large groups of employees; an automated time and attendance system to capture time at the employee level; and employee self-service features, such as address changes or direct deposit enrollment.
Another high-profile system is Ready Return -- a pilot during the 2005 tax season in which selected Californians could view and approve a state tax return completed by the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The pilot attracted nationwide attention -- it was the first time a state government calculated taxpayers' returns for them.
Westly, FTB chairman, said it just makes sense for the FTB to perform the calculations since the agency already receives information directly from taxpayers and employers. The agency can fill that information on a tax return and do the math for taxpayers. At that point, taxpayers verify the information, make necessary changes, and sign and submit their returns, either on paper or through e-file.
"The response from the 10,000 to 12,000 people who were part of the program was stunning," Westly said. "It was 98 percent positive, and the thrust was, 'This made my life so much easier. Why hasn't government done this before? This is the sort of smart thing we want to see government doing.' It's the sort of thing I know we can do more of in California."
-- Shane Peterson
Anthony A. Williams
City of Access
Maintaining his own Weblog, updated weekly, where he ruminates on issues both public and personal, keeps Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams in communication with city residents.
"I believe a blog can serve a useful purpose in connecting me and the citizens I serve," Williams said.
That the mayor personally uses the city's own award-winning portal illustrates the multiple information sources and services for residents available on the government's Web site.
"One of the most important engines we have to drive our city's transformation is information technology," said Williams. The district uses wireless technology for public safety, homeland security and countless other applications. In 2005, the district government won two Public Technology Institute 2004 Solutions Awards for its efforts.
Williams highlighted some noteworthy district achievements in technology. "From our response to Y2K to more recent security challenges in the post-9/11 period, our technology office has risen to the occasion at every turn," he said. "I'm extremely proud that our Web site went from 20 pages to 150,000, consistently wins awards and allows residents to perform up to 150 different services online."
Cost and practicality are top priorities for Williams. "I'm also very excited about DC NET, our effort to replace 30,000 government phone lines citywide with fiber-optic cable -- saving taxpayers $10 million a year."
Looking forward, Williams said he hopes to put a growing amount of information online, as well as increase online access to make those resources available to everyone.
Williams and his staff consistently adhere to the District's IT vision of "a city of access, where every person who lives, works, visits or does business in D.C., can readily obtain government services or information. In a true city of access, all government processes work, and all government systems function reliably and efficiently."
-- Alison Lake
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