A commission designed to make sure the state gets the most for the money it spends wants lawmakers to start implementing new budget strategies that focus on results as Illinois prepares to implement the biggest state spending plan in its history.

Some of the state's top budgeteers said they haven't always budgeted for results.

Monday marks the beginning of the new budget year. Over the course of the next budget year, the state government is set to spend more than $40 billion. During a Budgeting For Results Commission hearing in Chicago on Wednesday, state Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said while lawmakers do have hearings, look at line items and meet with working groups to hash out additional details, there’s not much talk about which programs provide the best value.

“It’s more about how we feel about those programs that kind of determine how to allocate those dollars,” Davis said.

The commission was started nearly a decade ago by state law to find ways to provide data-driven information about which taxpayer-funded programs provide the best outcomes, and which don’t. The commission is evaluating metrics to best measure outcomes, but discussed how the number of clients an agency cares for is not the same type of information as to how much the service provides in return on investment.

Earlier this month the commission published an assessment of several programs within the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice. Of eight, four were shown to be effective: GED, vocational education, parole reentry and therapeutic communities programs (DJJ). Three were moderately effective: Post-secondary education, therapeutic communities (DOJ), and substance use disorder programs. Two were marginally effective: Electronic monitoring and GPS monitoring.

The chair of the Budgeting For Results Commission, Jim Lewis, asked how to best “fully build out” such assessments in the entire budget process.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said state lawmakers can be set in their ways.

“It’s really going to take cultural change. We’re set in our ways,” Steans said. “We’re going through our line items and we’re doing it that way. We’re not doing it at this moment in time based on how effective the programs are and how to really address desired outcomes.”

Davis said it’s time to get lawmakers, state agencies and organizations looking for state funding to deliver results early in the budgeting process.

“As we work to put in a brand new system of collecting data and reporting out data to show where we’re doing good and to show those areas where we’re not doing so good, we just have to recognize that we’ve got to bring the community-based organizations with us,” Davis said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office has said it used some results-driven data, but plans to incorporate more in future spending plans.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.