One strategy--using an evidence-based, rigorous cost-benefit model to make policy decisions--is being put into place in a number of states thanks to the efforts of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. The initiative is a joint project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that works with states to implement an innovative cost-benefit analysis approach to help policymakers invest in policies and programs that work.
"With budget issues dominating the agenda of most legislatures, state leaders and the people they serve expect government to do more with less," said David Adkins, executive director/CEO of The Council of State Governments. "Across-the-board budget cuts often throw the baby out with the bath water. A more enlightened approach is needed. That's why it is so important for state appropriators to invest in results. Results First is a great tool to help states do just that."
Results First provides state leaders with a tool for comparing the returns on investment for state-funded programs in an unbiased, nonpartisan way, said Gary VanLandingham, director of the initiative. The model can help state leaders make better policy choices and enable them to target their limited resources at programs that generate the best returns for taxpayers.
"This is a much more rational strategy than making across-the-board cuts that reduce funding for effective and ineffective programs alike," said VanLandingham.
In working with the 14 partner states, Results First has demonstrated early success in a number of ways, including helping states to:
Implement the best research-based cost-benefit models to assess policy alternatives.
Design policies that work together as a total package or portfolio, recognizing that investments or cuts in one program can affect costs and outcomes in others.
Learn from each other, adapting best practices so each state doesn't have to reinvent the wheel.
"In addition, we have been successful in creating the climate needed to make decisions based on results, not anecdotes or external pressures, by providing technical assistance and other direct support," said VanLandingham.
Results First is working with 14 states--Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont--to adopt the model and begin applying this rigorous analysis to policy and budget decisions. More states are expected to join the initiative in the coming months.
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