Jerry Kopel

Governing Magazine Report on Colorado Information, 2008


March 15, 2008

By Jerry Kopel

"Information is king" claims Governing magazine in measuring performance by the 50 states for a report card based on the year 2007. Boosting "information" makes sense for Governing, a subsidiary of Congressional Quarterly.

However, it's bad news for Colorado. We were tied for 47th worst state with Arkansas, Mississippi, New Jersey, Vermont, and West Virginia on information performance. Hawaii, New Hampshire, and South Dakota were at the very bottom.

Denver Post columnist Fred Brown recently touched on the "Pew Center On The States" as a source for his "report card" column on the 50 states.

Actually, Pew and Governing joined "a group of academic experts from four different colleges, compiling data from an electronic survey of states, and interviewing 1,400 officials from the executive and legislative branches, plus outside observers.

"Information elements" claimed Governing Magazine "in short, are key as to how a state takes care of its infrastructure, plans for its financial future and deals with dramatic changes affecting the state workforce..."

There were five criteria for information ranking, and Colorado ranked as weak in the first three:

1. The state actively focuses on making future policy and collecting information to support that policy direction.

2. Elected officials, the state budget office and agency personnel have appropriate data on the relationship between costs and performance and use these data when making resource-allocation decisions.

3. Agency managers have the appropriate information required to make program management decisions.

Colorado performance for 2007 was acceptable for the following two criteria:

4. The governor and agency managers have appropriate data that enable them to assess the actual performance of policies and programs.

5. The public has appropriate access to information about the state, the performance of state programs and state services and is able to provide input to state policy makers.

"In an era when 'trust in government' is at low ebb, states are working to open up communications with their constituents" according to Governing magazine.

"Last year in Colorado (columnist note: Ritter's first year as governor) the office of the governor, state treasurer and controller published a transparent report on state government and expenses.

"It gave everyone and particularly individual taxpayers, a better understanding of the budget."

Governing magazine quoted State Treasurer Cary Kennedy stating "That's important in the same way it's important for investors in a company to know how the company is performing. We need to understand how the state is performing without the spin."

The other criteria used by Governing magazine, the Pew Center and others were "people, money, and infrastructure" where Colorado scored "C plus" on money and infrastructure, and "C" on people and information.

Colorado was given an overall "C plus" rank which makes us either 32d out of 50, or tied with nine other states at 41st. In other words, Colorado was only better than nine other states.

Besides "information", Colorado was weak in "training and development of people" and "maintenance of the infrastructure".

Zeroing in for a full page on Colorado, Governing magazine reports: "...competition for general fund dollars is fierce. And the $325 million the state spent (columnist note: before Ritter became governor) on failed technology projects in recent years hasn't helped. Poor project management doomed some of the efforts, but they also were damaged by a fragmented information technology administration system. The current structure has decision makers spread across sixteen executive agencies."

Governing magazine placed our population for 2007 at 4,753,377 (actual numbers reported in February, 2008 indicate 4,861,515) which is 22d out of 50 states. In total state spending we rank 27th. In spending per capita, we rank 43d. But in average per capita income, we rank eighth.

When we look at the Rocky Mountain region, ALL the states that touch a Colorado border, did better than Colorado in this survey, except for Oklahoma, which tied us at "C plus".

Utah was "A minus", Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona were "B minus", and Nebraska was a "B".

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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