Center researchers examine effective government reform in Indiana

July 19, 2004

Many Hoosiers believe that you usually get what you pay for—except when it comes to government. With government, some believe that the cheaper it is, the better.

“Hoosiers have often pursued the idea that government should be reformed to cut costs, but cost is not the most important consideration. We want to build effective governments that do important things—this is what leads to success,“ said John Kirlin, senior scholar at the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. Kirlin led a research team of faculty and staff at the Center that analyzed state and local government efforts and factors that promote effective reform.

“First, we must understand that Indiana already has low-cost state and local governments. In 1999–2000, Indiana collected less state and local revenue per person than every state but Arkansas. It is difficult to believe that Indiana, which collected $5,381 per person in 1999–2000, has the resources to build a more effective government than, for example, Oregon, which collected $8,373 per person during that same period,” Kirlin said.

Instead of focusing primarily on cost, Kirlin said that people who want to improve government should first determine what they want their government to accomplish. Then they can work to establish popular political and public support, and structure a plan for a long-term effort that includes ways to measure success.