Government Takes Top Honors in Efficiency

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008

RICHMOND, March 3 -- Now here's a report card to put on the refrigerator:

Virginia received a top grade of A-minus on a ranking of efficiency and effectiveness in state government in a report released Monday by Governing Magazine and the Pew Center on the States.

The report, issued every few years, rates the 50 states on a variety of criteria, ranging from how well the state manages its budget to the quality of employees it attracts. Virginia tied with Utah and Washington state, which also received A-minuses.

But Virginia got a B-plus on what many Virginians know is a weak subject: infrastructure.

"In a state blessed with such abundant data and careful planning, Virginia's infrastructure management is playing catch-up," the report's authors wrote. "Virginia needs to continue working on a thoughtful plan to maintain structural balance in the future."

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) praised the authors of the report for accurately highlighting the state's ability to manage its money and attract and train a high-quality workforce. The report also touted the state's ability to evaluate and provide information about its services.

But Kaine lamented the lower rating on infrastructure topics, such as building maintenance and monitoring of large construction projects.

"Our weak spot is infrastructure," Kaine said. "That will not come as a surprise to anyone who has looked at Virginia. We have not been the investors of new construction that we should be."

He noted, however, that the B-plus rating is still higher than most states'.

The report's authors also wrote that Virginia was still struggling to recover from "poorly planned" tax cuts under the administration of James S. Gilmore III that were passed before the 2001 recession, especially the phasing out of the car tax in 1998.

Maryland received a B in the report, slightly above the national average of B-minus. The state received its lowest marks for employee training programs but fared better in budget and infrastructure categories.

This is the second time in a row that Virginia has taken top honors in the report. In 2005, the last time the report was issued, Virginia tied with Utah, receiving a grade of A-minus.

The report is the result of months of review by state-level managers and other specialists, who study more than 12,000 criteria to arrive at the grades.

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