Budgeting for Results

Three years ago the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation (PA 96-0958) that re-directed the state’s budget process to a mandated focus on outcomes, goals and performance. This new process is just over 2 years old and two annual budgets have been prepared and presented using outcomes, goals and performance metrics.  Budgeting for Results (BFR) changes the way the State of Illinois allocates more than $24 billion in annual spending from the general revenue fund.  This fund is often called the state’s checking account and is basically the state monies accumulated from sales tax receipts and both individual and corporate income taxes.  Prior to the new process, Illinois utilized a traditional, incremental budgeting approach.  Basically last year’s budget was the baseline and that level was mostly maintained with only marginal changes made as the budget went through the approval process.  Budgeting for Results is a strategic alternative to traditional incremental budgeting where resources are allocated based on how effectively a program/service achieves established goals and objectives.  Also, large spending blocks are prioritized by statewide results/outcomes to help ensure that priority spending is in fact prioritized and not simply dealt with incrementally. 

The new law that created the new process also created the Budgeting for Results Commission for the purpose of advising the Governor in setting outcomes and goals.  The Commission is bi-partisan comprising of elected officials, business leaders, public advocates and distinguished academics.  Here is the best part of the Commission’s responsibilities, they were required to hold public hearings to solicit citizen input on spending outcomes and priorities.  Three public hearings were held and more than 100 individuals attended and 38 different organizations testified.  These organizations ranged from civic groups to social service providers.   As a result of these hearings and the Commission’s open meetings as well, the entire state budget was simplified into seven outcomes/results.  They are as follows:

  1. Quality education and opportunities for growth and learning for all Illinois students
  2. Enhanced economic well being of residents and communities
  3. Protection of resident’s lives and property
  4. Protection of the most vulnerable of our residents
  5. Improved access to, and cost effectiveness of, healthcare
  6. Improved quality of life of residents, and
  7. Improved efficiency and stability of state government.
The beauty of these seven outcomes is that ALL state spending has to fit in one or more of these categories.  If nothing else is achieved with this new budget process, the simplification of the budget into these relatively understandable categories is a vast improvement from the old process.  The budget presented previously before the new law was simply by agency, by line item.  With over 60 state agencies, boards and commissions, there were no “identifiers” for either elected officials or the public to visually see what monies were being spent, and for what.  In addition, if multiple agencies were doing the same thing or trying to achieve the same result, that fact would not be readily apparent in the old budget format. 

Gary T. Robinson is currently the Deputy Director of the Office of Finance and Administration at the Illinois Department of Public Health. He has also recently completed the Public Performance Measurement Certificate Program offered by PPMRN.

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