IT First on Deeds Hit List if Elected Governor

VITA first agency under Deeds' scrutiny if elected

RICHMOND, Va. -- Democrat R. Creigh Deeds said Thursday he plans to make Virginia's massive computer agency the first to face a performance review if he's elected governor.

In an hour-long Associated Press interview, Deeds said the Virginia Information Technologies Agency's chief needs to answer to the governor, as do the state agencies it serves.

"The idea wasn't bad. The problems have occurred in implementation," said Deeds, a state senator from Bath County.

VITA was created six years ago to replace the widely varied computer systems each state agency developed independently with one consolidated, streamlined system that serves all state government.

Instead of a more efficient and inexpensive system, however, state agencies for years have complained of sharply higher prices, long delays procuring equipment and poor service. The complaints triggered three legislative branch inquiries of VITA and its 10-year, $2.3 billion partnership with defense giant Northrop Grumman, the largest contract to a single vendor for one project ever in Virginia.

The state's chief information officer, who oversees VITA, answers to an independent board. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has said governors need more ability to direct and oversee the performance of the agency that's responsible for supplying state offices with needs as varied as computers, faxes, phones and the networks that link them.

State agencies have complained for years of high costs, long delays and poor service from the partnership.

"I'm as concerned as anybody else about paying $8,000 or $9,000 for laptop computers or waiting days or weeks for technical support," Deeds said.

He said he wanted to await findings of a Senate Finance subcommittee investigation into the partnership. The House Science and Technology Committee is doing a separate inquiry, and the legislature's investigative arm, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, is expected to wrap up an 18-month probe in October.

The wide-ranging interview with AP reporters focused on state revenue and spending issues.

Deeds denounced a $213,000 Republican Governors Association televised attack ad highlighting about $1 billion in budget amendments he sought in 2008. The ad, aired in support of Republican nominee Bob McDonnell, didn't note that the bulk of the spending Deeds sought would have raised Virginia teacher pay to the national average.

"I'm going to hit (McDonnell) on that and ask, 'Do you support raising teacher pay to the national average or not,'" Deeds said. "Now he's attacking me because I do."

The ad buy is running in tandem in all Virginia markets except the Washington, D.C., suburbs with an upbeat ad McDonnell's campaign purchased.

Deeds came no closer to discussing specifics for generating added revenue to reduce a backlog of mothballed highway construction projects now well beyond $100 billion. In a testy exchange, he refused to say whether, as governor, he would ask lawmakers to impose new taxes or fees to ease chronic gridlock and upgrade crumbling, outdated roadways.

"I'm not going to throw up lightning rods," he said when asked for specific funding ideas. "You might want to play a game of gotcha, but that's not the way leadership works.

"I'm going to sign a bill that provides long-term, sustainable funding for transportation where there's a nexus between the collection of the money and the use of the transportation system.

"I don't think I gain much ground when I throw up lightning rods and making specific proposals about transportation funding today."

McDonnell said he will refuse new transportation taxes. His transportation plan is more detailed, but it would reroute billions of dollars in cash from such core services as education, health care and public safety. He also calls for issuing $3 billion in bonds that the state now lacks sufficient revenues to repay.

Deeds also told the AP that he, too, would take a pay cut if elected, his small part to aid a budget that's already $5.6 billion short of its projected revenues barely halfway through its two-year run.

McDonnell made the same pledge on Wednesday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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