State Auditor Beth Wood and her staff work in a building that has been smoke-free for years. It has been illegal to smoke in state-government buildings since 2010. In recent testimony to the Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, however, Wood noted that janitorial contracts require ash trays to be emptied every day.

Mitch Kokai uses this to underscore the limits of efficiency efforts in state government.

“Nobody is tracking the data that is necessary to determine what we’re doing,” Wood concluded. “We’ve got to establish where are we before you can establish what cost savings, cost efficiencies are going to look like.”

Fortunately, the budget for next year includes $37 million to build a new state government financial system that should help collect and provide better data, making strategic and operational management of state government possible. Another section would create a Budget Accountability and Transparency Reform Initiative to improve how agencies create and report their budgets. These two steps could help future legislatures make more informed decisions. It has taken years to get these two projects to this point, so it is wise to keep expectations for transformation in check.