Budget Blog

The Use of Data and Evidence in Governors’ Fiscal 2019 Budgets

By Kathryn White posted 04-09-2018 11:54 AM


Recently, NASBO released state-by-state summaries of governors’ budget proposals for fiscal 2019, which reveal much information about state fiscal conditions, spending trends, and gubernatorial priorities. Reviewing executive budget recommendations this session can also provide valuable insights into how states are increasing their use of performance information, evidence and data analytics in funding, management and policy decisions. Governors’ budget proposals this session called for investments in evidence-based programs and evaluation, as well as performance-based budgeting and funding initiatives. Executive budgets also included additional funds for efforts to increase government efficiency and effectiveness through process improvement, performance management, and data analytics. Below are just a few examples of these various uses of data and evidence in governors’ budgets:

  • Investing in Evidence-Based ProgramsColorado’s executive budget proposed a 100% increase in funding for an evidence-based mental health program, “The Incredible Years,” to expand prevention and intervention services for children and families; a cost-benefit analysis shows an estimated return of more than $4 for every $1 invested in the program. 
  • Performance BudgetingFlorida’s governor recommended maintaining performance funding for child care providers who “demonstrate successes in school readiness, professional development and access to high-need populations.” 
  • Performance ManagementPennsylvania’s executive budget called for “a more transparent performance evaluation system” across the education and workforce development system by establishing a “cross-agency and multi-sector public facing interactive data dashboard” that will help inform strategic planning, program management, and funding decisions. 
  • Process ImprovementMissouri’s governor recommended new funding to implement the “Lean Efficiency and Cost Reduction Initiative”, while numerous other states such as Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma and Vermont plan to continue their Lean and other government efficiency efforts. 
  • Data AnalyticsIowa’s governor called for increased data sharing between state agencies to help government make more informed decisions, and also expressed a desire to expand the use of data analytics through a new partnership with Iowa State University.

While states are utilizing data and evidence across state government, their use is more prominent for certain program areas and policy priorities. The strong evidence base for programming in criminal and juvenile justice, made more accessible by the Pew-MacArthur Results First Clearinghouse Database, has enabled states to make more informed investments in programs and policies with demonstrated effectiveness at reducing recidivism and improving outcomes, while also saving taxpayer dollars. Such efforts are highlighted in budget proposals in numerous states, including Georgia and Utah. States are also making use of evidence and data to enhance child welfare services; for example, New Mexico’s Governor called for additional funding to meet child care assistance needs, after finding that children receiving a child care subsidy were far less likely to experience repeat maltreatment compared to the general population. Governors in many states also recommended targeted increases for evidence-based programs in the area of human services, including funding initiatives in Idaho, Mississippi and New Jersey to treat mental health and substance abuse. Some states, including Tennessee and Washington, also recommended new funding to improve data availability to help efforts to address the opioid crisis.

States are also using performance information, evidence, and data analytics to inform education and workforce development funding and policy decisions. California’s executive budget, informed by the California School Dashboard – a new, multi-dimensional student performance measurement system – proposes a series of requirements to increase local school accountability and achieve other goals, while Arizona’s governor recommends continued funding for the state’s Results-Based Funding program for K-12 education. Governors’ budget proposals in Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Rhode Island and other states describe how higher education institutions will be funded at least in part based on performance metrics such as degree completion. The Massachusetts executive budget recommends new funding to support the continuation of a pay-for-success project that provides job training and search assistance, along with other workforce development services, and Virginia includes a special report in its executive budget document on how performance measures align with gubernatorial workforce goals.

These are just a sampling of the many ways states are increasing their use of data and evidence in decision-making, through the lens of governors’ budget documents. NASBO expects this trend in the states to continue, as they work to further expand evidence of what works and as technology and data availability continue to advance.