Tag Archives: legislature

What’s on your dashboard?

Governor Snyder presented his first State-of-the-State address last night, and delivered a message consistent with what he has said throughout his campaign and in the months following his election success: Michigan’s economy needs a boost, and the most immediate outcome that boost needs to generate is jobs.

 His speech was targeted more at the big ideas of where he intends to lead the state, but he did share a few more concrete examples to help illustrate his intention. One of those examples was the Michigan Dashboard – a quick way of documenting the metrics that he feels we need to improve. These are the metrics that will tell us whether his programs and other changes that the Legislature enacts are leading towards the creation of new jobs for Michigan residents.

 The metrics are organized in five categories: Economic Strength, Health and Education, Value for Government, Quality of Life and Public Safety. Among those five categories, 21 individual metrics are listed, and for each, data from the previous five years are given, and comparisons to other states are listed as well.

 The notion that government would be held accountable to a set of metrics isn’t entirely new. Six years ago, leadership in the Legislature determined that they wanted to use an accountability methodology based on the book “The Price of Government,” authored by David Osborne and Peter Hutchinson. Unfortunately, leadership in the House was more interested than leadership in the Senate, and the governor’s office seemed even less interested in that approach. Even so, at that time, my predecessor, Maggie Bethel, led the charge to show how Michigan State University Extension was able to deliver on the metrics of concern to legislators, and MSUE took the effort more seriously than any other organization inside or outside of state government. The impact papers that Maggie and her communications team generated were remarkable and have continued to influence the way we communicate about MSUE with decision makers.

 Governor Snyder’s approach may be more lasting, if for no other reason than the fact that it is originating from the Executive branch this time. Whether it lasts or not, I think it’s prudent for MSUE staff to once again ask ourselves how we contribute or can contribute to improving the metrics on the dashboard.

 For example, work our state and local government team conducts that assists local governments in finding ways to collaborate on services across jurisdictional lines should help to improve the metric on state and local government operating costs as a percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Work we do on nutrition education should help to improve on infant mortality, obesity in the population and college readiness. Our Greening Michigan teams can contribute to the clean and safe water resources water quality index. And there are others.

 We need to challenge ourselves to be able to show how our work is contributing to these metrics. They are not our only means of accountability, but they are among our important means of accountability. I challenge each of you to think about how your work and the productivity of your work team can contribute to one or more of these 21 metrics. Where appropriate, we need to build these into our logic models as metrics for measuring our program impacts.

 I’d like to hear from you with your ideas about MSUE contributing to these metrics. Before you hit the “reply” button and send your ideas just to me, please make a few more clicks by going to my blog and add your suggestions as comments to this posting so that others in MSUE, on your work team and outside of MSUE can read your thoughts as well.

 This is a time when we need to be able to once again rise to the challenge, and with the same confidence and boldness that Maggie demonstrated in 2005, speak clearly and demonstrate the value of MSUE for Michigan’s future.


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State Budget completed on time!

Today is the last day of the state fiscal year, and the Michigan Legislature has completed action on the funding process for the higher education budget for the year that starts tomorrow. Actually, the Legislature completed their work on the higher education bill on Tuesday this week, and the governor’s office has indicated that she will approve the bill as passed. In the bill, state funding for Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) will be reduced 2.8 percent from the total support provided for the fiscal year that ends today. There are several positive aspects of this news. First, our budgets were treated the same as those for the state’s 15 publicly supported universities: all are receiving a 2.8 percent reduction in funding. Second, all of the funding for MAES and MSUE is from the state General Fund. In last year’s budget, 44 percent of our funding was slated to come from federal stimulus funds, which added some bureaucratic obstacles to receiving the funds and also shook confidence in what the ongoing level of support for these lines would be. Having our General Fund restored is reassuring. And finally, although it’s hard to ever consider a budget reduction as a good thing, that the reduction is 2.8 percent and not something more severe, like 10 percent or 15 percent that Cooperative Extension programs have experienced in other states in our region, is a positive outcome. With our state’s economy struggling and the structural deficit in the state budget, our programs will continue to be at risk of more severe reductions. But for now, to have a modest reduction of this magnitude while we’re going through our redesign process allows us to better prepare for how we will continue to deliver programs if we face more significant reductions in future years.

 Now is a good time to let those stakeholders who have worked in support of our funding to know how much their support has meant to keeping us intact and to thank them for their dedication to our programs. And ultimately, I want to thank each of you for delivering programs and conducting research while tolerating challenging and uncertain times. Because without those programs and those research findings, we wouldn’t benefit from the kind of support that we have throughout the state from a very diverse group of stakeholders. Thanks!

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State budget process underway once again

On Sept. 23, the legislative conference committee for the Michigan higher education appropriations bill approved their funding plan for the fiscal year that begins next Thursday, October 1. MSU Extension and Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station funding lines were kept separate and were funded at nearly the same level as the current year. Like the 15 university budget lines, our total funding from the state will be down 0.4%. Our stakeholders have been advocating for MSUE and MAES to be treated the same as the rest of higher education since the beginning of the budget process in February. Although our funding level seems to meet this expectation, the process of funding our appropriation does not.

 The conference committee bill calls for funding the 15 universities entirely from the state’s general fund. However, only 56 percent of the MSUE and MAES funding would come from the general fund. The remaining 44 percent would come from federal stimulus package. This is the same plan that was adopted by the Michigan Senate in June.

 On one hand, to come out of this process with a very slight reduction in our overall funding would be remarkable in these challenging times. On the other hand, because the federal stimulus funds would not be available after the 2010 fiscal year, next year’s base budget will be 44 percent lower than our current budget. Legislative leaders have stated that they have every intention of treating MSUE and MAES budgets the same as the university budgets next year. Though that kind of support is heartening, it will be a considerable challenge for them to live up to that commitment. Furthermore, if the budget process is as late next year as it is this year, we will need to initiate significant staff reductions and terminations of contracts early in 2010 in order to be prepared should the legislature and governor fail to return our state general fund budget back to its current level. It would be fiscally irresponsible for us to ignore the fact that our base budget is being cut by 44 percent.

It’s clear that legislators hear frequently from stakeholders who support state funding of our programs. And we have tremendous support from President Simon, MSU Vice President for Governmental Affairs Steve Webster, CANR Dean Armstrong and CANR Director of Stakeholder Relations Mike Kovacic. President Simon continues to put the full spectrum of MSU’s governmental relations resources to work on protecting our funding lines. Now is a good time for them to hear our appreciation for their support.

 It is important to recognize that what happened yesterday was just one step, albeit a necessary one, towards approval of our funding for FY 2010. The full House and Senate will need to vote on this proposal, and ultimately the governor will need to approve it for it to take effect. So it is still extremely helpful for stakeholders to speak with legislators on behalf of our programs. The simple message remains the same:  MSUE and MAES funding should be treated the same as the rest of higher education and this means the source of funding is as important as the level of funding. The resolution adopted by the conference committee yesterday falls short of that expectation. It is entirely appropriate for all legislators to hear from our stakeholders, but recognize that the message is a complicated one to understand and communicate. Please share our thanks with stakeholders who have spoken out on behalf of our programs.

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