Connecting state and local government leaders
Budget decision makers often have difficulty understanding the scope of a state’s technological needs.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Budget officers and others involved in state financial decisions have a problem according to Scott Pattison.
Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said there is uncertainty among those that take part in state budgeting processes about how to get the most value out of the money invested in information technology.
“They’re not confident where they should be appropriating, and suggesting, and recommending where the money goes,” he said during a Tuesday morning discussion at the 2015 National Association of State Chief Information Officers mid-year conference.
Should a state funnel more dollars toward countering cybersecurity threats? To what extent will that money help prevent cyberattacks? How will moving certain systems to the cloud help cut costs? Those are tough questions for budget and finance officials to answer.
“They need you all to really make the case, convince them, give them confidence, that where you are recommending certain money goes really is going to make a difference,” Pattison told the crowd, which included state information and technology officials from around the country.
He had other advice for the audience as well. For one thing patience is important.
“You may not get approval right away,” Pattison said. “It takes a while to educate finance and budget people.”
He urged consistency in how information and technology departments explain the benefits of cloud computing to both elected officials and non-elected individuals involved in budgeting.
Pattison also noted that operating budgets are extremely tight in most states, and that while this creates challenges, there are steps IT officials can take to help get projects paid for.
For instance, there are different ways to look at the definition of capital financing, which can unlock sources of funding outside of the operating budget. “During bad times universities get a lot of buildings,” he said, “You can issue bonds.”
It’s also important, in Pattison’s view, to think about how contracts are written, and whether funding can be phased in, or spread out over a number of years.
“You have to assist the budget folks in being creative,” he said.
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