This Week in Texas: March 21, 2012

Posted March 21, 2012 in The Mignon Memo

The state of Texas will be ending its data center partnership with IBM.  In 2005, the Texas Legislature mandated the consolidation of state data in two high-quality data center facilities rather than continuing to maintain several smaller centers.  IBM was hired in 2006 to manage the consolidation but the project soon fell far behind schedule with finger pointing on both sides of the deal.  IBM was supposed to complete the consolidation of the agencies’ servers by December 2009 but by the summer of 2010, only about 12 percent of that work had been done.  Last week, the state and IBM agreed to go their separate ways with a Dallas-based unit of Xerox Corp. formerly known as ACS State and Local Solutions set to take over the majority of the remaining work and several other contractors providing additional consulting work and oversight.  The project is scheduled to be completed by 2016, seven years after the original deadline.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst released his interim charges to the Senate Finance Committee.  In addition to holding budget hearings, the committee was instructed to look at the following issues:

  • Review the state’s current spending limits and determine if statutory changes are needed to continue restraint of spending growth below the rate of inflation plus population growth.
  • Review the budget process to develop strategies for greater legislative efficiency and transparency, including diversions of dedicated funding streams to alternative uses. Include options for more user-friendly budget documents, additional
    notice of posting of new information, and enhanced access to research and background information.
  • Study cash management related to the timing of receipts of state revenues and expenditures during the course of each fiscal year. Specifically, review methods of short-term borrowing and intrafund borrowing, and estimated cash
    needs for the coming biennium.
  • Review current funding sources for regional law enforcement training and retention of law enforcement officers. Make recommendations to meet funding needs over the long-term and ensure the physical safety of law enforcement officers and all Texans.
  • Evaluate the changes in the correctional health care system, including management, cost savings, and increasing access to federal matching Medicaid reimbursement for prisoner care. Make recommendations for improving the efficiency and adequacy of health care delivery throughout the system.
  • Study and make recommendations regarding the methods of financing capital projects at higher education institutions. Examine the levels of deferred maintenance, the impact of deferred maintenance on the ability to offer basic instructional
    services, and the methods used to finance deferred maintenance projects. Recommend alternatives for addressing long-term capital needs in higher education. (Joint study with Higher Education Committee)
  • Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Finance, 82nd Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Specifically, monitor the following:
    • Implementation of all budget riders to enhance government efficiency, reduce government, and encourage job growth;
    • Current loan financing mechanisms offered by the Water Development Board and options for funding the State Water Plan, and the impact of recommendations developed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on this issue;
    • The impact of House Bill 2154, 81st Legislature, Regular Session, on the Physician Loan Repayment Program;
    • Receipts from major state taxes, and include a review of tax equity among industry groups and the impact on job creation and economic growth;
    • Federal, state, and local options for supporting Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces (ICACs);
    • Issues relating to certain cigarette manufacturers not participating in the tobacco settlement agreement;
    • The impact of increased funding for Border Security, including an assessment of effective use of surveillance tools, and prioritize future needs;
    • The impact of funding decisions on merit pay programs for teachers;
    • Hospital reimbursements in the Medicaid program, including the use of Upper Payment Limit (UPL) payments under a new Medicaid waiver and outcome-based payments.