Missouri receives a B-plus on a national report card

Monday, March 3, 2008 | 4:22 p.m. CST; updated 12:49 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri government is among the nation’s highest-performing states, according to a national report card released Monday by the Pew Center on the States.

Missouri was one of five states that finished with a B-plus. It was the highest score among the state’s eight neighbors and was behind only three states that earned A-minuses.

In 2005, the last time a national report card was released, Gov. Matt Blunt had just taken office. In that study, Missouri finished with a B.

In a written statement, the Republican governor claimed credit for the improvement.

“Our sound economic and management policies are paying dividends for Missourians,” Blunt said.

The 2008 grades were awarded based on a review by a panel of state government experts.

The panel broke down each state’s government into four categories: information, people, money and infrastructure. Missouri’s highest score was the A it received for how it uses information.

That grade was awarded based on the extent of data collected to help policymakers steer long-term planning. It focused mostly on how government officials communicated with each other and used data to set policy goals and monitor whether existing programs are working.

One of the criteria also evaluated the public’s ability to access that information, examine the performance of state government and communicate with lawmakers and other government officials.

The report specifically praised lawmakers for creating a Legislative Budget Office. Lawmakers did that in 2006 and hired a former staffer for the U.S. House Budget Committee and Congressional Budget Office to run it.

State departments also must further explain their programs when submitting budget requests to the lawmakers who review them.

Missouri’s lowest grade came for how state employees are managed.

“The state’s work force, sadly, is the victim of archaic civil service laws, although it is competently managed within the confines of those statutes,” the report concluded.

The study recommended modernizing hiring practices.

Researchers said the rankings are intended to give states objective information about how they can improve their performance.

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