By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Maryland ranked among the best-managed state governments in the country and is well positioned to endure an economic downturn, according to a Syracuse University study released Tuesday.
The state received a “B+” average grade in five government areas, placing it behind only three other states — Michigan, Utah and Washington — that earned average grades of A-. Maryland also improved its mark from 1999, the last time the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and Governing magazine undertook the Government Performance Project.
Maryland earned the country’s top grade in its management of capital projects, such as repairs for buildings, roads and bridges, getting an A in that area. The study gave the state an A- for financial management and grades of B for human resources, managing for results and information technology.
“Maryland had the strongest planning process in place,” said Michele Mariani of the Government Performance Project. “They had an excellent vision for forecasting out what their needs would be, and matching their resources with what those predictions called for.”
The state’s citizens should be very pleased with this progress report because it demonstrates that the state is able to “direct the spending of their money more effectively. . .toward policies of greater interest to citizens,” said Neil Bergsman, director of the state’s Office of Budget Analysis.
Bergsman also said the state’s financial management, which has been consistently given the highest rating by credit agencies, will enable to the state to weather any economic downturns, such as the recession that blind-sided the state in the early 1990s.
Information technology showed the greatest improvement since 1999 in Maryland, jumping from a C to its current B grade. The researchers attributed the improvement to the state’s use of technology to streamline government processes and link disparate agencies.
But Kenneth R. Timmerman, president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, said the results say little about efficiency and efficacy of government programs.
“By the standard of efficiency in government, Maryland should get an F,” Timmerman said. “Maryland has grown by leaps and bounds under Parris Glendening. It has expanded its employees and its budget with little or no impact.”
Virginia, which ranked among the top states in 1999, slipped slightly to tie Maryland in this latest analysis, due in part to questions regarding the impact of the proposed repeal of the car tax and capital project overruns.
California, New York and Alabama showed the greatest improvement overall since 1999.
The Government Performance Project examined the government systems that deliver public services, such as human resources and information technology, in all 50 states. The state-by-state report cards were based upon surveys of government officials, internal documents and interviews with state budget experts.