States Get ‘Governing’ Report Cards

By: - February 1, 1999 12:00 am

Good news for residents of Missouri, Utah, Virginia and Washington – you state tax dollars go to the fourt best-run state governments in the nation, according to findings published in the February edition of Governing magazine.

Those four states received the highest grades for performance in five management categories in a two-year study conducted by Governing in conjunction with Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based philanthropy that funded the project.

The four each received an average grade of A- for financial management, capital management, human resources, managing for results, and information technology.

Alabama’s report card was not so good – that state got an average grade of D in the areas measured, ranking it last in the list of states. It flunked one category managing for results because it has blithely ignored a national trend of utilizing performance-based budgeting and performance-based pay, Governing said.

Calls to the press office of Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat who took office in January, were not returned.

The magazine sent questionnaires about management practices to every state and all but California responded. Information about California’s activities had to be gathered through alternative means, it said.

Among the more interesting findings of the study:

–Louisiana (with an average grade of B-) is a leader in the use of performance measurements.

–Connecticut (C-), despite being widely perceived as a hotbed for technology, lags in computer technology

–Wisconsin (B), viewed to be one of the best administered states, appears less prepared than some to cope with economic downturns.

–Kentucky (B) is an innovator in terms of managerial reforms.

–Utah (A-) has a travel office that generates noteworthy cost savings.

States with mediocre ratings shouldn’t view Governing’s report card as a cudgel, says Alan Ehrenhalt, the magazine’s executive editor. “I think in general, if you work for a state with low ratings in a particular category, it might be an argument as to why you need more resources to do your job effectively.”

On the other hand, states that did well shouldn’t gloat, Ehrenhalt says. “The truth is, this is a moving target. What’s a state of the art practice now won’t be in five years. So a state that gets an A now and doesn’t make an effort to change as times change won’t have that grade very long,” he told ”

Officials in Washington, which received an A- overall rating, “will continue to set higher standards and goals in all areas of government,” says David Chai, a spokesman for Gov. Gary Locke.

In the area of financial management, Washington received an A-minus, compared with a national average of B. The Evergreen state got an A for capital management, which covered construction of prisons, office buildings and the like. The average grade for all of the states was B-.

When it came to human resources — having a well-trained workforce and dealing with payroll and other personnel matters efficiently — Washington earned a B . The average for everyone else was B-.

Managing for results, or spending money in a performance-based manner, resulted in a B for Washington and a C national average.

In the area of using information technology as a management tool, Washington got an A, the rest of the country a C .  

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