Guest Essay: State finance woes underscores need for budget reform

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The state budget crisis gives us a historical opportunity to fundamentally reform the way we prioritize and spend taxpayer dollars in our state.
The current budget process makes our state vulnerable to waste, fraud and mismanagement because it allows for unchecked spending and little accountability. Nothing will change in state government until we overhaul this broken and ineffective process.
Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) gives us the chance to change the rules of the Illinois budget game. Also known as "Results Budgeting," BFO starts with identifying what revenue is actually available and defining spending priorities (for example, job creation, education, health care, transportation, public safety). It then requires measurable outcomes for money spent and encourages creative ways of achieving these goals within the limited resources available.
Recently adopted by the Government Finance Officers Association as a "recommended practice," BFO allows taxpayers to be better informed and to get a better return on their investment in Illinois government. It also will ensure greater accountability and transparency in the budget process by requiring annual reports on results achieved from dollars spent. This will give us the necessary information to cut, eliminate or reform programs that are not producing in the future.
Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke introduced BFO in 2002 when his state faced a $2.5 billion shortfall in its budget. The state of Washington's fiscal situation turned around so dramatically after implementing this initiative that many other states, municipalities and other levels of government converted to this budgeting method and realized immediate results and cost savings. We want Illinois to be the next success story.
We are working along with other reform-minded legislators to introduce this essential budget reform. We urge the members of the General Assembly and the governor to immediately adopt this measure so we can start on a new path of fiscal responsibility and accountability.
Taxpayers deserve -- and expect -- no less.
-- State Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-33rd
-- State Rep. Carol Senate, D-59th