Montana Governor defends new computer system : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Racicot defends progress on new system By ERICA CURLESS Gazette State Bureau

HELENA - Despite minor glitches and bumps, Gov. Marc Racicot praised his administration for its battle to create a new computer network and tax system. Racicot told the state departments of administration and revenue to feel proud of their accomplishments and to disregard "shallow" criticisms of the new multi-million dollar systems, which put Montana ahead of most other states.

"Both of these projects remind me of what it must have been like to build the first dam," Racicot said during a briefing. "You have to bring these systems up while doing business, but you have to keep business flowing."

Combined, the two computer systems have cost Montana $46.2 million. But Racicot said both the tax system and the network that keeps the state's financial records and human resources were worth the cost and frustration.

He said the old systems hadn't been upgraded since the 1970s and couldn't have performed for the state much longer.

"We could have cobbled them together with bubble gum, Band-Aids and baling twine," Racicot said, adding that wasn't a true solution.

The 1997 Legislature approved funding for both systems.

The financial and human resources integrated network cost $16.5 million. The state decided to buy an off-the-shelf software package from PeopleSoft Corp. instead of building a new bookkeeping and human resources system like it did in the 1970s.

The new tax computer system originally was slated to cost $11.7 million, but the 1999 Legislature agreed to approve another $18 million to fully install the system. It will eventually integrate how the states collects 30 various taxes.

The installation of both systems has caused many frustrations and a few glitches along the way. And it may cost Montana even more money if additional cash isn't found within the departments' existing budgets. But it's too early to draw that conclusion, officials said.

The state financial network had problems such as incorrect paychecks, not paying companies that do business with the state on time and difficulties preparing federal reports.

Most of these glitches have been fixed, but state Administration Director Lois Menzies said other problems will occur during the first, two-year business cycle.

"We expect additional bumps in the road for a while yet," Menzies said.

Racicot agreed that was to be expected and that Menzies and other state workers should be proud.

"For God's sake, that's a problem?" Racicot said about the few batches of incorrect state paychecks. "We can fix that problem by early afternoon."

The tax system has experienced its own problems such as getting tax refunds to Montanans two weeks late.

Revenue Director Mary Bryson said this glitch has also been fixed.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 08, 2000

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