Monday, October 18, 2010

Consolidation of Oklahoma's State Government IT Systems

This week the House of Representative’s Government Modernization Committee will conduct two interim studies designed to analyze the progress of the ongoing modernization reform initiatives and explore the possibility of implementing a new series of transparency and cost saving reforms.

The savings from the Legislature’s modernization efforts of the past two years are starting to come online at a time when state government will be required to once again greatly reduce the size of the state budget.

Recent state budgets have been propped up by stimulus funds, rainy day fund expenditures, and a crazy accounting gimmick which placed state government in debt to the oil and gas industry.

The time for state government to cut its budget is now as the rainy day funds are starting to become depleted and the federal government will likely start to retreat from its unwise policy of issuing so much new debt.

One of the key modernization reforms taken by the Legislature and the Governor was the enactment of House Bill 1170 in 2009. The proposal was sponsored by Representative David Derby who serves as the Vice-Chair of the Modernization Committee and was designed to cut cost by implementing an enterprise-wide IT strategy for Oklahoma State Government. Each year these technology expenditures account for many millions of dollars of state spending. This spending is all too often fragmented among state agencies which leads to wasteful spending practices, missed saving initiatives, lack of an enterprise-wide long term IT vision and failure to provide for an across-the-board security strategy to protect the taxpayers’ personal information.

House Bill 1170 was approved because of the tremendous commitment of both House Speaker Chris Benge and Senate Speaker Pro-Temp Glen Coffee. The plan was also supported by Governor Henry who courageously signed the bill even though every single member of his party voted against it in the Legislature.

At that time, those of us in the Legislature who supported this cost-cutting effort, pointed to the time when the stimulus funds would be gone and state government would have to cut costs as a reason for why it was important for us to approve the bill as soon as possible.

Now, some of the provisions of this law are starting to go into effect just in time for the government financial shortfall. Early next year, Oklahoma’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) is scheduled to present the IT consolidation plan which is mandated by law to reduce state IT spending by at least 15%.

Our interim study will provide the opportunity to review the ongoing progress of this reform and prepare for additional legislation which may be needed to implement the components of the CIOs plan.

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