08/28/2012 01:42 am ET

California Government iPads: Cash-Strapped State Spent Nearly Half A Million Dollars On iPads

Earlier this month, Apple overtook Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world.

The trendy Cupertino-based tech firm has been posting record profits in recent years largely on the strength of handheld devices like the iPad. So who is buying all these iPads?

The California state government, for one.

According to recent expense filings, California government employees have spent just under half a million dollars on iPads. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs bought 127. There were also 100 purchased for the Department of Water Resources, 62 for the Board of Equalization, 30 for Caltrans and 66 for the Department of General Services.

Some Republicans have criticized Governor Jerry Brown for allowing government employees to spend money on electronics that could easily be viewed as a luxury while asking voters to pass a measure that would raise taxes.

"It's just the kind of double standard that outrages taxpaying citizens and explains why they don't trust us," Assemblywoman Connie Conway (R-Tulare) told the Chronicle.

Brown recently demanded that the state's Department of Motor Vehicles return 11 of the over two dozen iPads ordered by the agency.

The iPads were purchased as part of a government program to go paperless. It's part of a trend that's seen municipalities around the country trading printers for tablets--often with positive results.

Utah Chief Technologist and Strategic Planner Bob Woolley told Government Technology that he tested the iPad extensively before purchasing a number of the devices for top state executives, water quality inspectors and social workers.

"I wasn't expecting it to work out as well as it did," Woolley said. "It's been very effective and surprisingly so."

A similar iPad adoption program in Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's office reduced paper usage by 90 to 95 percent within a few months.

Apple does offer a special site with discounted purchasing of its iPads for government employees and military personnel.