Government Performance Project Releases States Grades: Illinois Earns C+; Undergoes One of the Most Dramatic Reorganizations

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GPP issues state report cards. "Grading the States 2005" is the nation's only comprehensive, independent analysis of how well each state is managed.

Illinois has streamlined its state government by shedding employees and consolidating agency functions but faces the biggest unfunded pension liability in the country.

These conclusions are based on research released today by The Government Performance Project (GPP), the nation's only comprehensive, independent analysis of how well each state government is managed. The project is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The state report card, “Grading the States 2005,” said Illinois is undergoing one of the most dramatic reorganizations of any state government in recent years as it attempts to emerge from decades of mismanagement.

Overall, Illinois earned a C-plus on a scale of A-F, in line with 15 other states including Indiana, Connecticut and Colorado, for its management of Money, People, Infrastructure and Information. All 50 states received a grade in the GPP’s report, which can be found at http://results.gpponline.org/Illinois and in the February issue of Governing magazine.

According to GPP Director Susan Tompkins, the quality of management performance by state governments is often critical to the success of a state’s programs and policies. “The last few years have seen the biggest financial crisis for state governments in 50 years,” said Tompkins. “The way Illinois has reacted to this crisis managerially has had a big impact on citizens in this state and will for years to come.”

Researchers found that Illinois’ restructuring has focused on reducing the number of state agencies; those agencies duplicated many functions. In the past two years, the number of agencies has been reduced by almost a third, and many functions have been consolidated into an existing agency -- Central Management Services.

Tasks such as information technology, legal counsel, media relations and auditing—which were previously duplicated in every agency—are now run by the central unit.

The state was assigned a B grade for its money management, with mid-level assessments of all sub-categories such as the budget process and the long-term outlook.

Meanwhile, the state is only beginning to tackle some other areas of government that have fallen victim to mismanagement, the GPP said.

On infrastructure, Illinois was given a C+; the GPP praised internal coordination but said project monitoring was weak. An inventory of assets, already compiled by many other states, is only in its early stages. And there is a backlog of infrastructure maintenance tasks resulting from the previous decentralized planning system.

A similar lack of coordination in information technology has produced an urgent need for consolidation and standardization, the report said. Information technology had been allowed to grow without coordination in each of 50 different agencies, resulting in multiple platforms, 22 email networks and many different accounting practices.

Illinois also earned a C+ for its information management – how it gathers, analyzes, uses and shares information. It received a C in people management, with weakness in strategic workforce planning, training and development, and managing employee performance.

The GPP report, the result of a year of research by a team of academics and journalists, is designed to allow state leaders to identify strengths and weaknesses, and to compare the performance of their state to others. All citizens are affected by how efficiently their state is governed.

The GPP used data from different sources: (1) an online survey filled out by designated state managers; (2) a systematic analysis of public documents; (3) interviews with legislators and executive officials, independent citizen groups and academics. (Note to journalists: please see methodology below for detailed information on process.)

To view the complete report on Illinois and to compare its performance to the other 49 states, see http://results.gpponline.org/Illinois. The February issue of Governing magazine also reports on the state grades at http://www.governing.com.

The Pew Charitable Trusts (http://www.pewtrusts.com) serve the public interest by providing information, policy solutions and support for civic life. Based in Philadelphia, with an office in Washington, D.C., the Trusts make investments to provide organizations and citizens with fact-based research and practical solutions for challenging issues. With approximately $4.1 billion in dedicated assets, in 2003 the Trusts committed more than $143 million to 151 nonprofit organizations.

The Methodology

“Grading the States 2005” builds on a rich lode of information about performance. The Government Performance Project has collected thousands of pieces of data which, put together, paint a detailed portrait of state government performance. The grading process for GPP 2005 built on the following steps:

·    Grading against criteria. The GPP graded the states against criteria, not against each other. The team’s analysts began by carefully identifying the four management areas – Information, Infrastructure, Money, and People – that are most important in achieving policy goals. In each management area, they then identified the characteristics of effectively managed governments. These criteria, defined by the best research in the field, established the grading standards.

·    Refining the criteria. The GPP’s research team then identified the components (that is, the subcriteria) that make up each criterion. For example, a state that manages its Money well would maintain structural balance by making limited use of one-time revenues; a state that manages its People well would retain a skilled workforce by maintaining productive relations with its employees. These subcriteria defined each of the criteria.

·    Collecting the most important information on the criteria and subcriteria. The GPP’s research team then collected the data that provided the best information about the criteria and subcriteria. Researchers assembled much of the data from existing sources, including information posted on state websites and published in government reports. Some of the information came from an innovative web-based survey, in which state officials completed information requested by the GPP. And some of the information came from interviews conducted by the team of reporters from Governing magazine.

·    Analyzing the information through a collaborative process. The research team of scholars and journalists then jointly analyzed and discussed the data and its implications. They combined their information and jointly assigned the grades.

·    Conducting the process in transparent fashion. From the very beginning, the GPP committed to a process of transparency. The project’s researchers and reporters consulted extensively with state officials before defining the criteria. The GPP published the criteria and subcriteria before launching data collection. Along the way, regular electronic newsletters kept state officials, as well as others interested in the project, on its progress. When the GPP published the grades in Governing, it provided extensive explanation of the grades and of the information used to produce them. In addition to the narratives published in the magazine, the GPP website contains deeper explanation. In the coming months, more and more data and analysis from the project will be made available on the website as well. The result is an unprecedented repository of information about state government management, which will be available without charge to anyone interested in reviewing it.

This is the third time that the Government Performance Project has graded the states. The grades in this version are not comparable with the grades in the previous phases of the project, for several reasons:

·    Number of management categories graded. In the past, the GPP graded five management areas. In this version, the research team redefined all of the criteria and combined some of them. As a result, the five categories graded in previous versions do not match the four in this version.

·    Emphasis on results. Previous versions of the GPP focused on the processes of state government. In this phase, the GPP focused far more on the ability of state governments to produce results. For example, in this version of the GPP, it is not enough for a state to demonstrate that it collects information about the performance of its programs. The GPP grades states on how they use that information to improve results.

Because of these two important changes, grades in this version of the GPP are not comparable with previous grades. Such comparisons should not be made; if they are made, they are certain to be misleading and inaccurate.

The grades assess the capacity of state governments, as a whole, to produce results. The grades do not represent a judgment of any individual within state government, or of any branch of state government. Many things go into the assessments, including state legal and constitutional processes, the structure of state policies and programs, the relationships among elements of the state government, and the relationship between government and its citizens.

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Barbara Beck
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