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Minnesota: Smartly working to avoid a financial tsunami

Effective and efficient organizations measure and assess the productivity and impact of valued investments.

Minnesota has taken an important step forward in making taxpayer dollars work more effectively and avoiding severe financial stress from an aging population, slower growing work force, more moderate growth expectations, underfunded pension liabilities and outdated infrastructure.

This past legislative session, Minnesota’s lawmakers decided to implement a model that aligns research, policy solutions and cost-benefit analysis. Results First Initiative, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, works with states and local governments to implement an innovative cost-benefit analysis approach to governing and resource allocation. Minnesota’s governor, Senate and House signed off on adopting this model this past legislative session.

Evidence-based approach

By doing so, Minnesota joins 17 others states and four California counties that have partnered with Results First to apply a customized approach to policy and budget decision-making. Early results show that five states can account for redirecting $81 million in funding to more effective programs by adopting this evidence-based approach.

The Results First model shows that, by leveraging the benefits of evidence-based policymaking, governments can reduce wasteful spending, expand innovative programs, and strengthen accountability. These efforts have helped leaders in other states improve public outcomes, reduce costs, and increase accountability by ensuring that resources are directed toward the most effective, cost-beneficial programs.

Looking to what works, at an affordable price

We and like-minded citizens have been discussing models similar to the one launched by Pew and MacArthur and modeled after Washington state over the past several years – and want to congratulate this governor and this Legislature. Like many, we are weary of a $40 billion budget being decided on by special interests in sequestered conference rooms at the 11th hour. Policy decision-making should be done in the daylight and guided by good evidence of what works at a price we can afford. 

Effective and efficient organizations measure and assess the productivity and impact of valued investments. We look forward to the next legislative session where we can begin to assess and measure results first and foremost. 

Peter Heegaard is from Minneapolis; Angie Eilers from St. Louis Park. Also contributing to this commentary were Robert Bruininks of Minneapolis; Kelly Harder of Kasson; and Jim Westcott of Oakdale.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 10/01/2015 - 06:54 am.

    This sounds very promising. Taking a hard look at all the programs to decide if they are being effective and efficient (2 things not associated with Government programs). The big question is who is going to act on the results and cut or reduce a program that will be supported by fellow politicians. What happens is the “horse trading” starts on programs that don’t cut the mustard between elected officials, special interest groups and lobbyist then the money gets moved around. It looks good from the outside but nothing changes internally. Typical results are a good looking press relief from a blue ribbon panel consisting of the same politicians that are fighting for the money and no change at all. Seen this movie 100 times, same ending unfortunately. Maybe this time it will be different, we can only hope.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2015 - 10:15 am.

    Cost benefits

    The outcome and efficacy of a cost benefit analysis depends entirely on what one includes as a cost and a benefit. What is driving our government bottom line is the aging of the population, something which, no matter how you look at or how you define costs and benefits, is not something within the control of the government.

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