Minnesota furloughs 75% of IT staff amid shutdown

State IT officials warn that a prolonged state government shutdown could hurt some tech services

Many of Minnesota's IT employees have been furloughed due to a state government shutdown that was prompted by a budget impasse.

The state's Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) has furloughed about 75% of its 338 employees as a result of the shutdown, according to Cathy de Moll, director of planning, communications and marketing in the technology office.

The state government has 1,800 IT employees in its executive branch, including the OET staff, but it's uncertain how many overall are in layoff status.

"I think most IT staffing at the agency level is minimal, except for a few major applications, including unemployment insurance and the new ERP system that just went live on the first day of the shutdown," said de Moll.

The shutdown began July 1.

Under the rules imposed during a shutdown, government agencies are only allowed to continue "critical" services, which for IT has been defined as those providing security, networking, hosting and communications services.

There will no "break/fix" work, upgrades or patching to non-critical applications and services, said IT officials in a memo.

If the shutdown is prolonged, there could be deterioration of some non-critical services as well as longer than usual response times to service issues.

The federal government issued similar warnings in April, in advance of possible shutdown that was averted.

OET is responsible for applications, communications, data centers, desktops, networks, security, and Web, as well as providing services.

"OET is doing emergency patching only for those services that are considered critical, plus some security patching to the major state systems and networks," said de Moll. "We cannot predict the impact of a prolonged shutdown on these non-critical systems, but expect that without the usual upgrades and maintenance, we may encounter some difficulties as time goes on."

State governments, overall, have been hurt by declining tax revenues.

Computer Economics, in its annual IT Spending and Staffing Benchmark study, said that it expects public-sector IT operation spending, which doesn't include capital spending, to decline by 3% this year.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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