By LIZ FARMER, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - Following through on a campaign promise to bring more accountability to state government, Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed Tuesday to bring to the state bureaucracy a system which he believed made Baltimore's city government vastly more effective.
The system, to be known as StateStat, is modeled after the CitiStat program he used while mayor of Baltimore, and would require state agencies to report directly to the governor and his cabinet for bi-monthly performance reviews and strategy reports.
The StateStat initiative seeks to achieve smoother state government operations and a more hands-on approach for the executive branch to monitor the efficiency of the departmental agencies.
"It's going to re-energize state government and make it more responsive to the problems and needs of the people," said Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, D-Calvert-Prince George's. "Especially in regards to the tax dollars that are funding state government."
If passed, the bill would require state agencies to submit specific plans and performance reports to the Secretary of Budget and Management by Aug. 15 of each year. The O'Malley administration would identify performance goals that can be measured, tracked, computerized and discussed at sessions to better manage state resources, find savings and cut waste.
"There will be cost saving with StateStat," said Rick Abruzzese, a spokesman for the governor. "Will it solve our state deficit? No. But it will create some cost-saving measures, and I think everybody agrees that we should do whatever we can to make [the government] operate more smoothly and efficiently."
CitiStat, which is credited with saving the city of Baltimore millions of dollars since its inception six years ago, has generally been well-received not only in Maryland, but also in cities where similar programs have been enacted.
It is based on the ComStat program pioneered in the New York City Police Department, which helped the NYPD reduce crime and is employed today by several police departments around the world, according to CitiStat's Web site. Other programs similar to CitiStat have been adopted in Chicago, Boston, Denver and other major cities across the country.
Although the program has so far only been used in cities, lawmakers feel confident that a state-wide version will help the government operate on a more efficient level. Miller said that the bill is still in the beginning stages and that legislators still need to collect information on how the new system could affect state government operations.
However, Abruzzese, who is confident that the general assembly will adopt the proposal, said that StateStat does not in fact call for any major changes in government departmental structure.
Those who have had direct experience with CitiStat say they think applying it on a state-wide level is the next logical thing to do. Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works, called the program "one of the most useful tools we have," and said it has allowed Public Works to run much more smoothly.
"If it can work on a micro level like a city, I don't see why it can't work on a macro level like a state," he said.
Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George's, whose Senate Budget and Taxation Committee will review the bill in the upcoming weeks, also seemed optimistic about the prospects for closer government agency auditing. "In effect you could stand here and look out at the state agencies," he said, describing the technologically-savvy meeting room where department heads meet for their weekly reports. "Not only could you look, but you could pull up their budget, you could pull up their personnel...So I think this will allow us to get our arms around the state budget."