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State CIO: Stay Tuned for Details on State Budget Cuts

In light of anticipated deficits in the state budget over the next two years, the California Department of Technology is among entities that are looking for ways to economize without affecting their mission.

A pile of $100 bills with a graph overlayed on top of them.
The California Department of Finance (DOF) has directed leaders in state government to immediately reduce current spending from the state General Fund and to “ensure more prudent spending from other state funds” in light of anticipated state budget deficits in the next two years.

California CIO Liana Bailey-Crimmins.
Liana Bailey-Crimmins
The state’s chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology (CDT), Liana Bailey-Crimmins, assured industry members in a CDT Vendor Forum on Thursday that pending projects that are already funded won’t be halted. Bailey-Crimmins said leaders of state departments and agencies were conferring on strategies and tactics to comply with the DOF budget letter.

“Stay tuned — more to come,” Bailey-Crimmins said.

Key points in the letter that relate to IT include:
  • New contracts for goods and services: “Departments shall not enter into any new contracts or agreements to lease or purchase equipment, issue purchase orders for goods or services, or make changes to existing contracts if the change would increase costs, except to meet a time-sensitive or critical need.”
  • IT equipment: “All discretionary and non-essential IT purchases, unless specifically related to a critical IT security need or a mission-critical need, shall be halted. This includes all planned IT equipment refreshes, copier or printer replacements, or any new equipment purchases (e.g., cell phone refreshes).”

The letter, from DOF Director Joe Stephenshaw, also directs agencies and departments to re-evaluate expenses related to current IT projects in these ways:
  • Review existing IT maintenance and operations contracts to validate that services, subscriptions, equipment and/or software licenses are still in use and necessary.
  • Review pending procurements/solicitations to determine whether the effort can be paused or delayed.
  • Re-evaluate any IT projects in the Project Approval Lifecycle process to determine whether the project can be paused or delayed.
  • If necessary to continue efforts, consider whether costs can be spread over several years or if financing is a viable option.

The budget letter prompted numerous questions from vendors during Thursday’s forum about what the spending freeze would mean for the industry and government.

“The details are still to come,” Bailey-Crimmins told attendees, adding that once those specifics are made clear, she and Ana M. Lasso, director of the Department of General Services, would share them. She noted that the state faced a similar budget crunch in 2020.

“Anything that is in motion, this is not meant to disrupt what we need to do in order to achieve our mission,” Bailey-Crimmins said, “but it is asking departments to be creative, and sometimes it may be elongating projects. … If there are M&O (maintenance and operations) contracts already in place, and critical technologies that are already (in the works), I don’t see disruption in that.”

She noted that state department secretaries would be setting the priorities for their individual entities.

“What is mission-critical for health is very different than mission-critical for transportation,” Bailey-Crimmins said. CDT, as a state control agency, is “in lock-step with Finance” on finding ways to curtail tech spending and to “leverage contracts maybe in a different way in order to deliver something that’s being asked of us.”

Lasso, whose department oversees much of the state’s procurement, echoed Bailey-Crimmins’ point about the cost-cutting goal — and the uncertainties that surround it.

“We’re sharpening our pencils and tightening our belts,” she said.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.