Government and Business

Access Idaho is the state's budgeting godsend

The business' payment structure gives state and local agencies flexibility.

zkyle@idahostatesman.comJuly 16, 2014 

Since 1999, the state of Idaho has redesigned all of its websites and begun accepting residents' payments for 150 types of transactions without the Legislature budgeting a single dollar for web development.

The state did so by contracting with Access Idaho, which builds the state's website templates and processes payments, including 9.5 million payments in 2013 worth $193 million. Access Idaho pays for operations and the 14 employees in its Boise office by charging user fees ranging from 25 cents to $1 per transaction.

That means Access Idaho gets paid every time Idahoans pay taxes, register vehicles, apply for licenses online or make other transactions that used to require sending or delivering a check. That means the websites have to be user-friendly, motivating Access Idaho to develop more avenues for residents to pay the state online and to maintain existing websites, General Manager Jeff Walker says.

"Our success has been a very quiet success," Walker says. "We put up the time, resources and energy to build applications. We don't recover our money unless the services work."

The Access Idaho portal processes about 177,000 vehicle registrations a year, bringing in about $10 million for the state. The company also provides some free applications for the state, such as the business search on the Secretary of State website, which received 50,000 queries in May, Walker said.

Access Idaho works with every state department, but it's overseen by the Department of Administration. Bill Farnsworth, customer relationship manager with the department, says shifting payments to the state website has allowed agencies to cut staff or shift employees who previously handled in-person payments.

The self-funding model encourages the state and Access Idaho to move more services online, he says.

"Sometimes they roll out several new applications in a month," Farnsworth says. "There's no way the state could do that."

Access Idaho is one of the 27 subsidiaries of parent company National Information Consortium, which is based in Kansas and is publicly traded. Each subsidiary has a similar fee-based relationship with one state. Idaho was the 12th state to contract with a subsidiary.

Many Idaho counties and cities have elected to farm out their website applications and transaction portals to Access Idaho using similar fee-based structures. Thirty-eight Idaho cities and 125 county departments contract with the company.

Walker's team is developing an app that will enable park employees and other in-the-field workers to process users' payments on mobile devices.

The state maintains its websites and owns the templates and databases, reducing the state's risk in case another vendor was needed.

Access Idaho's current two-year contract expires in June 2015. Farnsworth says he doesn't expect Access Idaho to go anywhere.

"We've had no big issues. We hope the relationship lasts a long time," he says.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464, Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle

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