CIO: Aldona Valicenti
Budget Deficit: $500 million deficit on $14.2 billion budget
What That Means for IT: 2.6 percent cut for fiscal 2004, which comes on top of 5 percent cut on fiscal year 2002. The 2003 IT budget is $91 million.
Priorities: Maintaining the state’s IT infrastructure; a new HR system; microwave towers for public safety radio systems; security.
Cuts: A server upgrade, an enterprise time reporting system, a new HR system, a disaster recovery plan, infrastructure security.
Methodology: Keeping the must-fund list short by staying attuned to political winds.
The Problem: By last December, Kentucky’s fiscal crisis had grown so dire that Governor Paul Patton authorized the release of criminals from prisons before their sentences were complete. The reason? The state couldn’t afford to house them. As if that wasn’t bad enough, last January the head of Kentucky’s Public Advocacy department told the Courier Journal of Louisville that if his office’s budget is cut again, he’s going to have to tell his lawyers to refuse poor people’s cases—never mind the fact that Kentucky is required by its own Constitution to provide criminal defense attorneys to all suspects who can’t afford them. Against this dire backdrop, state CIO Aldona Valicenti struggles to obtain funding for her most urgent initiatives.
The Process: Valicenti possesses an unblemished picture of what her priorities are: maintaining the state’s IT infrastructure, public safety and information security. Notably, the soft-spoken past president of NASCIO says that the anemic economic climate and the war in Iraq elucidates her IT priorities. “With the actuality of war and the economic threat, prioritization becomes easier. You’ve got less money and you know the one or two places where you have to spend it,” says Valicenti.
What becomes difficult is when her priorities compete for funding, and they often do in a budget situation as desperate as Kentucky’s. The inevitable result of that competition is that many of Valicenti’s priorities will be postponed until the economy rebounds.
That’s been the case for the past two years with the state’s decrepit HR system. Valicenti says Kentucky has “very urgently” needed a new HR system for several years. She says the existing system has been “patched and repatched,” and only two programmers know how to run it. She’s put this project before the legislature in previous years and now she has to present it again this year. And while the new HR system is a key infrastructure project, Valicenti believes that given the state’s deep financial woes, she won’t win funding for it from the governor and legislature this year, either. She has, however, been able to get funding for another one of her public safety priorities—making sure the state’s microwave towers, which provide the communications infrastructure for firefighters and other public safety personnel, are operational.
In times like this, all Valicenti can do is make a compelling case for her recommendations and requests for funding. Then it’s up to the governor and legislature to decide where the money will go. To keep her priorities clear, Valicenti depends on public sentiment and the governor’s policy goals to guide her decision-making. “What affects the health, welfare and safety of our citizens are the things I’m looking to invest in first,” she says.