Bell tolls for state e-gov department

Bell tolls for Wisconsin e-gov department

Wisconsin’s legislature this week gave preliminary approval to Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposal to close down the state’s 2-year-old Electronic Government Department.

Wisconsin faces a budget shortfall of at least $3 billion, according to legislative sources. Eliminating the department would save about $525,000, according to a nonpartisan evaluation by the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Under the proposal approved Wednesday by Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee, the state’s Administration Department would reclaim tasks that the EDG assumed when the legislature created it. The fledgling department oversees about $400 million in IT spending annually.

The proposal to eliminate the department appears in the state’s biennial budget. Wisconsin’s next fiscal biennium begins July 1, but in recent years the legislature has not passed the budget until October, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Department representatives were not immediately available for comment on details of the proposal, such as whether Wisconsin would still have a CIO if the budget passes in its present form.

The department has been a bone of contention between Republican and Democratic leadership in Wisconsin. Republican Gov. Scott McCallum backed the department’s creation in the last biennium, but Democrat Doyle has cited it as an example of wasteful spending, legislative sources said. Although Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, its joint fiscal panel has endorsed the Democratic governor’s proposal to abolish EDG.

Previously, when Democrats controlled the Wisconsin Senate, McCallum had used his partial veto powers to preserve the department against legislation that would have abolished it.

IT oversight functions “had already existed in the Administration Department when the Electronic Government Department was created,” a spokesman for the Legislative Reference Bureau said. “Almost certainly they were carried out by the very same staff, and they likely didn’t move offices but just put a new name on the door.”

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