Inside the Capitol

Sunday, December 07, 2008

12-10 New Mexico Ups Ranking

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – Is New Mexico state government better than it was 10 years ago? The Pew Center on the States thinks so. In its "Grading of the States 2008" New Mexico's overall grade is a B-. In this year's survey, states range from an A- to a D+. So B- is a little above average, which New Mexico state government isn't accustomed to being very often.
Even more promising is New Mexico's move up the rankings. On our 1999 report card, we rated a C-. By 2005, we had moved up to a C+ and now we're at a B-. What has caused this increase?
The study states: "In the past five years, New Mexico has taken strong steps toward addressing some of its most glaring management weaknesses, including what may have been the worst method of capital spending in the country."
Instead of having a centralized planning process for its infrastructure, the state simply divided capital funds into three equal portions, one each for the governor, the House and the Senate.
Then the House and Senate money was split further by dividing much of it among legislators. "Everything was political," said the study. "Hardly were any of the decisions based on rational planning."
Most of us remember those days well because they weren't that long ago. Cities and counties won capital construction projects based on which had the best connected lobbyists. And the Lobbyists made out like bandits.
When Gov. Bill Richardson came into office in 2003, he announced that infrastructure spending henceforth would be based on a statewide list of priorities. Lawmakers went ballistic. Their reelection campaigns were based on who could bring home the bacon. No one was going to break into that sacred treasure chest.
It appeared a standoff of titanic proportions was inevitable. But Richardson was enjoying a honeymoon with voters and lawmakers during his first months in office. Legislative leaders knew they couldn't win this one. The governor had both logic and popularity on his side.
So negotiations began on how much of its money the Legislature would give up to be used for identified priorities throughout the state. Each year, the governor has been able to chip away a little bigger chunk of the Legislature's portion to be combined with the governor's and used toward identified priorities.
The remainder is still split the traditional way but most legislators have agreed to pool their money toward funding priorities in their regions.
Other improvements noted by the Pew study include a consolidation of information technology services into one new cabinet department and one consolidated computer system. The system, known as SHARE, had a very bumpy road originally as Gov. Richardson tried to implement it too quickly and too cheaply. Now that most of its bumps are getting smoothed out, the system is proving its worth.
The study also compliments the installation of an advanced human resources system which has given workforce planning a boost, and a long-term planning system that assigns departments with the responsibility to fulfill their portions of the state's strategic plan.
New Mexico now ranks above some of its neighbors. Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada and California all are in the C category. Arizona and Texas are Bs. Utah is one of three A-minuses in the nation, along with Washington State and Virginia.
Utah, the Beehive State, long known for its industriousness and efficiency, has been a leader in governmental innovation over the years.
Utah was the first state to go to the four-day-week. It closes most non-essential state government offices on Fridays. It did so after careful planning and analysis of the increased information technology pressures it would place on state government to allow citizen access to government services on Fridays.
Hawaii followed soon after, learning from Utah's careful preparation. The two states have a close relationship. If you don't believe it, check out the football rosters of their college teams.

WED, 12-10-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home