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Editorial: Results do matter when it comes to spending tax dollars

Results do matter when it

comes to spending tax dollars

The National Conference of State Legislatures reported some good news. Performance-based budgeting is making a comeback in state after state.

The concept is simple. Officials make sure that they get the most out of the public’s money.

That means before giving a government program more money, state officials check out how well the program is doing. Is it meeting its benchmarks?

“The approach makes perfect sense — in theory,” reported Elaine S. Povich of Pew Charitable Trusts.

“In reality, its success relies heavily on how vigorously state leaders push the idea and how receptive state agencies are to a process that often makes them work harder to produce real measures.

“And it works better for some areas of government than others, particularly those with easily measured milestones.”

That’s true but every program’s success depends in large part on how hard a leader pushes it.

Texas has used performance-based budgeting for 20 years under Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry.

The system works better for some agencies than others, Mike Morrissey, deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to Gov. Perry, told Povitch.

A licensing agency can determine the cost of administering periodic exams, but other agencies struggle.

Mississippi is tying the recidivism rate to the budgets of nine programs in its Department of Corrections, House Speaker Phill Gunn, told the Stateline publication.

“When someone commits a crime, you arrest them and there are costs associated with that. There are incarceration costs, prosecution costs, and victim costs,” he said. “If you can prevent that (person) from going back to jail again, you are saving those costs.”

One education program showed a net return of $15.43 in cost savings per inmate in the program. Gunn said that was a good program.

But others may not be as impresed by a net gain of $15.43 in savings per inmate.

Reviewing whether programs work as intended is good management of the public buck.

Successful companies have been doing this kind of work for years, becoming more productive because of it.

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