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GOP wants agency results

BISMARCK -- Government by results may be the law if North Dakota's Republican leaders are successful with a bill introduced this week.

"If we can't measure the basic results or value of a program, then we shouldn't be doing it," House Majority Leader Rick Berg, R-Fargo, said Wednesday.

House Bill 1497 would start a performance and accountability system in state government, linking funding decisions to agency results, he said.

Sponsored by Berg, Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, R-Bismarck, and Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, it is the legislative version of a letter state agencies received from GOP leaders a couple of weeks ago.

In it, the leaders asked state agencies to give the Appropriations committees a two-page letter outlining their purpose and how they measure if that purpose is being met.


"Responses to this simple request are very telling," Carlson said. "Some agencies did a good job, but others missed the mark." Carlson is vice chairman of the government operations subcommittee of House Appropriations.

A look through the letters, compiled in a binder in Berg's office, show extremes in length and clarity. Many agencies didn't stick to the two-page limit.

For instance, Mayville State University turned in 21 pages, the Department of Financial Institutions sent six and the state geologist sent seven. The Department of Commerce also submitted multiple pages. Some agencies simply copied internal manuals.

Berg and Carlson have both used the Tax Department as an example of what kind of report and measurements they seek. North Dakotans should be able to find how much it costs the department to collect taxes and what percentage of taxes due are being collected, they said.

Tax Commissioner Rick Clayburgh didn't disappoint. His response is two pages long and contains these facts:

In 1992, the department spent $9.89 for each $1,000 in taxes collected. Adjusted for inflation, it is the equivalent of $12.60 today. Clayburgh said his office's most recent results show a cost of $8.32 per $1,000 collected -- not only below the 1992 cost but well below its inflation-adjusted equivalent.

Another that probably satisfied the GOP legislators was the Industrial Commission's Oil and Gas Division. Director Lynn Helms turned in a succinct three-quarter page narrative with one-paragraph answers to each of the four questions. On the back is a page of small charts giving graphic snapshots of the division's work.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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