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Iowa Lawmakers Approve $21 Million For Workday Computer System

Iowa’s Capitol on a cold snowy sunny afternoon.
John Pemble
Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate have approved $21 million for Workday.

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate have approved $21 million for Workday, a new personnel and accounting computer program for the state, after Gov. Kim Reynolds first tried to use federal coronavirus relief funding to pay for it.

Last fall, the federal government asked her to return the money to pandemic relief efforts because Workday was not an allowable expense under the CARES Act. Reynolds’ administration contracted with Workday in 2019, before the pandemic.

Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, said the legislature should approve the $21 million because the state will get a better payment system that will eventually save money.

“The current system costs $10 million a year to operate and has many problems,” Wills said. “The main problem is after two floods and one fire in the last five years, it has become increasingly evident that if we do not do something soon, our entire state’s payment system could stop at some point.”

Democratic lawmakers said they agree the state’s current system is outdated.

But Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said he still has a lot of questions about the process the governor’s office used to choose Workday and pay for it.

“They have heaped a contract into our lap, and we are looking at $21 million that could be so better spent at a time that we are recovering from a pandemic,” Hall said.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported last year that the Reynolds administration entered a $50 million contract with Workday without going through the typical competitive bid process. Reynolds’ former chief of staff was also working as a lobbyist for Workday.

Hall also raised questions about whether the system will work because there were rollout delays at Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Transportation, which contracted with Workday before the state did. Iowa would likely be the first state to use Workday for all of its major accounting functions.

Wills said Reynolds believed she was allowed to use pandemic relief funding for the project, and that the process used to choose Workday was approved by the attorney general’s office.

The $21 million funding bill now goes to Reynolds for final approval.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter