Certainly you could find other examples of a working relationship between a state CIO and lawmakers, but perhaps none as colorful as the act now playing in Wisconsin.

Their relationship is akin to a comedian/straight man duo.

The wisecracking senator, Ted Kanavas, tells CIO Matt Miszewski, "Execute this plan or I execute you," while the straight-talking CIO matter-of-factly takes aim at a "flawed" bill the senator has in the Legislature.

Their first gig was cutting the state's IT budget by $40 million. The governor needed $3.2 billion axed from the state budget, and as a member of the finance committee, Kanavas was charged with finding that money.

When Miszewski came aboard as CIO in March, his greeting from Kanavas went something like this: "Welcome. And by the way, we need you to cut your budget by $40 million."

The conservative Kanavas delights in hammering at the liberal Miszewski, saying the two argue sometimes about politics, but the CIO is no match. "Don't debate a politician, you're going to lose," Kanavas said. "Matt's a nice guy, but he's no politician. He's a liberal Democrat. He was hit in the head as a child, I think."

Kanavas also hammers away at Miszewski about the budget deficit. "I push, and I will continue to push," he said. "Whenever I see him -- whether it's at a restaurant or if he's on the other side of the street -- he starts walking fast because he knows what's coming. He's fast, but I catch him."

Miszewski takes the needling in stride. He said he believes the state can withstand a $40 million cut in its IT budget. In fact, he said he thinks it's what's best for the state.

That's the point. These guys couldn't be any more different from one another, but they're joined by a common goal: to get the job done right and make the state work better.

"Although [Miszewski] works for the governor, the fact of the matter is I can make the governor's job miserable if I need to make a change happen," Kanavas said. "But that's been the model around the country. Everybody knows how to make everybody's life miserable, but nobody knows how to get anything done."

Miszewski said, "I think it's a testament to both the senator's and my understanding of what our jobs are -- to get the best solutions for the state, and I think that's what we're trying to do. They should be looking to do the same sorts of things in every state."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor