The latest in Vermont's long line of state government accountability programs was officially adopted Wednesday. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed S.293 into law in Montpelier. He and the bill's data-driven supporters say they're optimistic that conditions are ripe for this system to stick, though many forerunners have waned or failed.
Shumlin said that too often government tries to do what's best but without the right data to test government's efficacy.
"We rarely ask the question, 'As we continue to throw more money at these programs, are we getting the data-driven results that we believe we're getting when we give you more money?'" Shumlin said.
He said at its core, the process laid out in the legislation - most of which takes effect immediately - is to ask three questions: How much are we doing? How well are we doing it? And is anyone better off because of it?
Chief Performance Officer Sue Zeller said S.293 is the third such program she's seen in her nine years in state government.
"But this time I really do think that the groundswell is here to move forward for the first time," Zeller said.
Zeller cautioned not to expect a sea change in decision-making processes right away.
Within three to five years, she said, "most of the major programs (will be) able to report on at least a certain number of outcomes and measurements that are tied to their strategic plans and budgets."
It will take still more time to loop more programs and services into the same evaluative model. It's a necessarily incremental process, she said.
So far, Zeller said, about 60 liaisons from roughly 30 departments have been selected to start aligning program management with population-level outcomes.
She said in many cases, the state already collects sufficient data, but doesn't manage it in a way that allows robust analysis. In other cases, data collection overlaps. Elsewhere, it's lacking.
Her goal is to make reporting more efficient so agencies and nonprofits can free up time to do the actual work at the hearts of their missions. To help build longevity into the system, she requested that no more than one of the two liaisons from each department can be a political appointee.