May 9, 2012
Last week, the Governmental Research Association announced the winners of their annual awards and it was a clean sweep for the Civic Federation. The Governmental Research Association (GRA) is the national organization of individuals professionally engaged in governmental research. The Federation’s work was honored in all three categories of the GRA’s 2012 Annual Awards for exceptional research on state and local government issues: top prize for Outstanding Policy Achievement and Certificates of Merit in the categories Most Effective Education and Most Distinguished Research.
The Civic Federation’s Cook County Modernization Project was selected for the Outstanding Policy Achievement Award which recognizes tangible improvements in public policy, management, service delivery and/or cost savings resulting from the research and recommendations of a government research agency. The Federation’s Modernization Project was intended to provide leaders of the county with actionable ideas for reshaping and refining county government which would result in improved service delivery to residents, reductions in wasteful spending and decreased reliance on taxpayer funds. Since the report’s release in late 2010, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Board of Commissioners have implemented or are in the process of implementing many of the Federation’s most important recommendations. These include the adoption of the county’s budget before the start of the fiscal year and the implementation of a performance management system. The report additionally contributed to the rollback of the county’s ill-conceived sales tax increase that gave the City of Chicago, the county’s largest city, one of the highest sales taxes in the nation. Click here for a complete list of the recommendations and an update on progress during the first 100 days of President Preckwinkle’s administration.
The Governmental Research Association also recognized the work of the Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability. The Institute’s State of Illinois Enacted Budget FY2012: A Review of the Operating and Capital Budgets Enacted for the Current Fiscal Year received a Certificate of Merit for Most Distinguished Research. Honors for Most Distinguished Research are awarded based on the challenge of the subject matter, the degree to which the study is ground-breaking and quality of execution. The State of Illinois budget process is a lengthy, complex, murky and often confusing process that rarely yields clear information for the general public, opinion leaders or even policymakers. The Institute’s report provided a detailed description of the budget process and the actions taken by the Illinois General Assembly to approve the FY2012 operating and capital budgets. The FY2012 Illinois budget was particularly noteworthy because the state had enacted a major income tax increase in 2011 and it was unclear if that action would provide adequate revenues to deal with the state’s ongoing structural deficit. The Civic Federation’s report found that despite the increase, the total General Funds deficit was projected to grow in FY2012 and that the State continued to deal with its financial problems by delaying payments to vendors and local governments.
The Institute’s State of Illinois FY2013 Budget Roadmap was also recognized with a Certificate of Merit for Most Effective Education. Honors for Most Effective Education are awarded based on the extent to which the work has enabled more informed public discourse and decision-making. With five-year projections that were intended to indicate the long-range consequences of current revenue and expenditure policies, the purpose of the FY2013 Budget Roadmap was to focus the attention of elected officials on the long-term consequences of their actions. The Roadmap strongly increased awareness among Illinois public officials, opinion leaders and the general public about the state’s impending fiscal crisis and the need for immediate action by lawmakers to improve Illinois’ finances. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn directly cited the findings of the Roadmap in his budget address to members of the General Assembly on February 22, 2012. Governor Quinn has since stepped forward with proposals to address the unsustainable pension and Medicaid trends that were outlined in the Federation’s report.
For more information on the Governmental Research Association and this year’s awards, visit http://www.graonline.org/conference/2012_GRA_Award_Winners.pdf.