Governing magazine’s 2005 report, Grading the States, evaluates all 50 states on Money, People, Infrastructure, and Information. In class we looked up and talked about Illinois and Louisiana. Without any references, I guessed that Illinois would get a higher grade than Louisiana, mainly because I believe it has a more positive perception and we have more people, jobs, capital, and I guessed, a healthier economy.

The report didn’t necessarily take these things into account. It is “Governing” magazine. The researchers looked at more governmentally-based levels of analysis.

Bottom line: Louisiana scored above Illinois, but you wouldn’t get that by reading the summary. The one for Louisiana starts off by mentioning their huge budget shortfall ($596 million) and talking about they hold $3 billion in “backup” trust funds. And they haven’t spent a dime (well, just a paltry $90 million per year) on maintaining state-owned buildings and assets. What Louisiana excels is at performance budgeting: agencies get more when they get more results, are more efficient.

Compared to Illinois in that respect, Louisiana is a decade ahead. Illinois doesn’t require performance data recording but agencies are still required to report quarterly performance data to the Office of Management and Budget. I’m going out on a limb by suggesting that these data aren’t based on universal collection and recording methods, and are subject to some fudging. Another problem for the state of Illinois is funding its employee pension fund.

What is Illinois doing well with? Well, it’s consolidating agency functions like auditing, legal counsel, IT planning, and procurement. Because of this the state is saving tons of money. How much? I don’t know. But the summary did stress again that Illinois has made some strides in eliminating redundant IT systems. Go us.

All states and the entire project can be accessed through a well designed website.

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