Who gave us the answers ahead of time?

The 2008 State Measurement Report Card (Pew Center On The States) is out for 2008 and (drum roll, please), we pulled out a B-.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How’d we do that?!

Well, my guess is that sitting next to Georgia (who got a B+), we probably copied her answers during the test but didn’t want to seem too obvious about it so we guessed on a few answers ourselves to avoid any suspicion from the teacher.

Seriously…bringing home a B- is pretty good. Especially when most times you’re bringing home an F (SAT scores, Graduation rates, DUI fatalities…I’ll stop because the high from our B- is slowly fading as I type these other courses).

I can honestly say that tonight, there’s at least one report out there that doesn’t give our state a black eye.

UPDATE:
(As I was typing I noticed that on the last report we were a B. Dangit! And I was going to bed with a good feeling before I found that).

Read the report for yourself (and notice the phrase they use at the end of the piece):

The first thing to know about South Carolina government is that the governor can’t do much without the legislature’s cooperation;
he doesn’t even have direct control over many of the executive agencies.

The second thing to know is that, especially in recent years, the governor, House and Senate have disagreed about virtually everything.

The Budget & Control Board—the state government’s administrative policysetting body—has been mired in a morass
of disputes involving its five leading players: the governor, the treasurer, the comptroller, and the chairs of the House and
Senate money committees. Oft-changing alliances and misalliances inevitably determine state policy.

Take the Department of Transportation. A battle among the House, Senate and governor for control of the woefully
underfunded DOT forced the 2007 legislature to hold a special session. All sides wanted reform—an audit of the department
had revealed poor contract and financial management. But no decision was ever made. In fact, the result of the session
was a hapless arrangement that created a new position, appointed by the governor, to reform the department, but left the legislatively appointed commission to select projects. The combination, as one DOT employee puts it, hangs a sword of Damocles
over the department. Much-needed maintenance money for dilapidated highways will have to wait until some future
date when the state stops treating the DOT like a political football.

Where politics isn’t in the way, South Carolina does many things right. The Office of Human Resources provides sound
human-capital planning, girded by technological tools such as e-recruitment and e-learning; director Sam Wilkins’ weekly
podcasts serve human resources staff at the various agencies an easily digestible bite of state and national issues affecting
HR policies.

Even though the state is cash-strapped, it offers incentives to high-performing employees. For example, the Department of
Natural Resources rewards groups that complete difficult tasks with exhilerating temporary missions, such as alligator-capture
trips. Unfortunately, even such smart assistance cannot compensate for the problems in more challenged agencies—between
voluntary departures and terminations,the Department of Corrections retains only 20 percent of its new hires after the first year.

On the information-technology front, South Carolina implemented the first wave of a new enterprise resource planning
system successfully. A challenge for any state, the ERP was doubly difficult for South Carolina because the state made the
tough decision to switch consultant-contractors midway through the $62 million project. The chief information officer and
comptroller risked failure in order to get the job done right, but close oversight by a committee of 19 different agency stakeholders
and a dedicated team of state employees has seen the adjustment through without a stumble.

South Carolina government is generally quite good at producing information; it’s not always so good at using it. Each year, a
Capital Budgeting Unit reviews every capital-improvement request from state agencies, evaluates them according to 15 criteria
ranging from safety concerns to funding availability—and then places the evaluations in a file cabinet. Ostensibly they are to
be employed later to prioritize the state’s building plans, but most of the time they aren’t employed at all. Neither the budget
office nor the legislature asks for the scores, and so they are an exercise in wasted time, effort and data.

This is unfortunate in a state that produces a great deal of worthwhile cost and performance information, including accountability
reports that review agency objectives and results, and forward-looking activity inventories that link agency goals to the budget. Some of these numbers aid in decision making, but too many are forgotten once they run into the twin meat-grinders of bureaucracy and politics as usual.

For additional data and analysis, go to pewcenteronthestates.org/gpp