The State of Hawaii’s Tax System Modernization project is an ambitious initiative. It continues to receive a high level of attention and scrutiny — and rightly so. As far as state projects go, it is one of the largest and also one of the most necessary.
Earlier this month, Gov. David Ige named Linda Chu Takayama interim director of the Department of Taxation (DOTAX) following the resignation of Maria Zielinski, the former director. This change provides an opportunity for a fresh perspective.
“I am committed to ensuring that the revenue engine of the state, including the technology needed to support this critical function, works well,” said Takayama, who had been serving as the director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations since April 2015. In her new position, effective Dec. 11, Takayama has stated she is committed to working with all parties, especially department staff, to ensure the taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, are well served.
By all accounts, the project is a worthy investment. A modern, effective and efficient state tax collection system is what Hawaii taxpayers expect and deserve.
Nevertheless, concerns about a range of problems prompted lawmakers to withhold the funds requested by the governor during the 2017 legislative session. Going into the 2018 session, the administration is taking steps to provide reassurance that the project is succeeding.
Providing the state Chief Information Officer with greater oversight of the project in July 2017 was a good first step. Many of the issues that have since come to light are now being addressed as a direct result of the CIO’s direct involvement. Transform Hawaii Government applauds this increase of project governance and transparency, including the CIO’s posting of quarterly “Independent Validation and Verification” project assessments at ets.hawaii.gov since July.
In the governor’s supplemental budget proposal submitted last week, the administration is asking for an additional $16.5 million in capital improvement project funds to continue the project into fiscal year 2019. As long as concerns are addressed, THG supports this request to keep the momentum of the project moving on its current schedule.
While legislators were wise to deliver a strong warning last summer, the willingness of the CIO and now, the new director, to advocate for greater collaboration and transparency are reassuring. Based on both of their track records of success, THG supports giving them that opportunity by funding next year’s budget request.