HARRISBURG – With the weak economy putting increased pressure on state revenues, Gov. Edward G. Rendell said that the latest Governor’s Report on State Performance gives taxpayers and the General Assembly clear information on the effective use of tax dollars.
The report — the second of its kind from Rendell administration — promotes government transparency by providing details on the accomplishments of 34 state agencies in the 2007-08 fiscal year.
“In these times of economic hardship, Pennsylvania’s citizens deserve assurances that we are making the best use of the taxes they pay to provide government services,” the governor said. “They want to know that their investment in the commonwealth is being spent wisely.
“The report helps communicate the real impact of government on people’s lives by describing — without bureaucratic language — crucial services in education, economic development, health and human services, the environment, public safety, consumer protection and government efficiency.
“This report, however, is more than a mere list of accomplishments,” the governor said. “It is one result of the lengthy process of constantly measuring and improving the services state agencies provide. By focusing on goals that improve the lives of residents, we ensure that tax dollars are invested in areas that provide the greatest benefit now and in the future.”
“As we continue with the difficult and painstaking work of bringing the state budget in line with revenues, we need to know which initiatives are showing results,” the governor said. “We need to concentrate our resources on programs and services that have proven to be successful. The wealth of information in the new performance report demonstrates our ongoing efforts to measure and improve government efficiency. These efforts are especially important as we make the hard decisions about the coming year’s budget.”
Among the facts that show how the commonwealth is using public funds cost-effectively in key areas:
-Education — In 2007-08 the commonwealth established Pre-K Counts, which provides quality half- and full-day pre-Kindergarten to 3- and 4-year-olds in more than 800 classrooms, giving them a vital early start to learning (page 25). Other investments in education at all levels are also paying off. Education Week ranks Pennsylvania 10th in the nation in education performance and policy, giving the state an overall grade (B-) that is above the national average.
-Economic Development — Pennsylvania is an attractive place to start and grow a business. In 2008, Business Facilities magazine ranked the state number one nationally in overall biotechnology strength; the Milken Institute ranked Pennsylvania 13th nationally on its state technology and science index in 2007. In the high-tech sector, Pennsylvania ranked 7th in the number of workers and 9th in high-tech payroll in 2006 (page 46-47).
-Health and Human Services — The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Pennsylvania as the best large state for having the fewest Food Stamp eligibility errors. The Department of Public Welfare has been able to maintain this ranking while managing an 11 percent reduction in County Assistance Office staff (page 88). Since Rendell took office in 2003, Pennsylvania has earned more than $13 million in federal performance bonuses for its improved management of the program.
-Environment — In addition to supporting clean air and waterways, increasing development of alternative energy and providing new opportunities for residents to connect to the outdoors, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of acres (400,000) of farmland preserved (page 77).
-Public Safety — Pennsylvania continues to make highways and communities safer through efforts such as Operation Seatbelt and Fatigue Enforcement (SAFE). In 2007, the State Police inspected the licenses and other records of nearly 8,000 commercial drivers and took nearly 800 unsafe vehicles out of service (page 138).
-Consumer Protection — State government provides industry oversight that protects consumers. The Department of Agriculture ensures the safety of food grown and consumed in Pennsylvania by inspecting a broad variety of enterprises, including eating and drinking establishments, food wholesalers, food processors, food manufacturers, retail stores, school cafeterias, and camps and summer food sites. In 2007-08, the department inspected more than 46,000 eating and drinking establishments (page 78).
-Government Efficiency — Like many private-sector businesses, state government is learning to provide services more efficiently and with fewer resources. State administrative spending was $70 million lower in 2007-08 than in 2002-03, despite five years of inflation and contractually mandated salary and benefit cost increases (page 203). These cost savings enabled more state funds to be directed toward delivering necessary services to Pennsylvania’s citizens.
The governor stressed that, while the report shows that Pennsylvania is making progress in many areas, there are areas in which more work is needed.
“This report provides tangible evidence of how we have improved the quality of life across the commonwealth in the 2007-08 fiscal year, but our work is not done,” Rendell said. “For example, I am proud of the significant progress we are making to improve our health care system and educational opportunities, but there is simply no substitute for expanding access to affordable health insurance for working Pennsylvanians and providing adequate education funding at all levels.
“Even in the best of economic times, citizens must hold government accountable for its use of their tax dollars,” the governor said. “When the economy falters, that accountability becomes even more critical. The 2007-08 Governor’s Report on State Performance gives citizens a clear picture of effective government at work. I hope readers will use the report to learn more about the work that we do and to raise questions about areas where we can do things even better.”