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Lawmakers vow new effort to measure budget results

 

The Associated Press

 

JACKSON -- Top legislative Republicans are promising that Mississippi will get performance-based budgeting right this time. 

 

In 1994, the Legislature passed a plan requiring agencies to collect data measuring their performance under five-year strategic plan. But that data, though listed in budget documents, has been little used in making decisions. 

 

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that a new approach will identify agency programs and try to determine whether the money spent on them produces results. The idea is to stop spending on programs that don't produce measurable results -- and, in some cases, spend more on programs that do produce results. 

 

"The bottom line is that this program will drive money to programs that work and away from those that don't," Gunn said. 

 

Reeves said he believed this was the beginning of a long-term commitment, though every lawmaker and statewide official faces election next year. "What this strategic plan will provide for is the ability to continue that for years and years and years into the future." 

 

Gov. Phil Bryant, who has long voiced support for performance-based budgeting, lauded the announcement. 

 

"An accountable budget system is in the best interest of taxpayers and in the best interest of the fiscal health of the state," he said in a statement. 

 

The program could reinforce legislative control over agencies. Gunn says that's proper because lawmakers are responsible for Mississippi's money. 

 

"We appropriate those dollars," he told reporters. "We are measuring how they spend those dollars." 

 

Gunn said that lawmakers would use data to make judgments and wouldn't automatically cut off an agency which produced a year of bad outcomes. 

 

Lawmakers point to pilot measurements of the Department of Corrections that evaluated nine programs. It found that seven saved more in future costs by preventing people from getting re-arrested than they cost to run. But two programs were found to be ineffective in Mississippi, including drug courts, which have been widely lauded and found to work elsewhere. 

 

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said complete implementation would come in 2017 or 2018. 

 

"We have the least amount of money to spend and we have some of the worst problems," Frierson said. "We've got to spend our money wiser and hopefully this is a tool to help us do this."

 

 

 

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