The State of Illinois and local governments have been forced to stretch their resources to meet communities' and the region's needs. Constrained public resources require state and local governments to improve their financial and budget administration practices and develop innovative approaches to investment decisions. Yet investments are often predicated on arbitrary formulas rather than measures of need or impact. Funding and programming decisions based on performance often make better use of limited resources. These approaches identify performance goals, combining data analysis and stakeholder feedback to choose projects within a limited budget. Both quantitative and qualitative data, including that obtained through extensive public outreach, are important pieces of performance-based approaches.
Performance-driven investment builds on complete, accessible, standardized, and high quality data. Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies is crucial to understanding regional and local demographic and socioeconomic conditions. The data necessary to assess transportation system needs, such as freight and goods movement data and data from other private transportation providers, is often unavailable. In addition, significant work remains to gather asset condition data across transportation, water, stormwater, and other infrastructure. Similarly, hospital systems, universities, and public health departments routinely collect health data from target areas and specific populations. These data can often be rich but are rarely standardized across place or institution, limiting the ability of health practitioners to address health inequality among various population groups.
The extent of data available to manage assets has improved, but obtaining it can be costly. Many local governments are adopting asset management systems. These systems identify a structured sequence of maintenance actions to achieve a desired condition at a minimum cost, helping communities to optimize the timing and amount of infrastructure investment. Asset management can be used to develop capital improvement plans or identify when additional revenue may be needed to maintain system condition.
While some local governments lack the capability to institute asset management, some progress has been made by roadway jurisdictions for pavement management systems. Because of the large scale of the assets and expenditures for roadways, implementing such systems is an important first step toward improving how governments manage capital assets.
State and local governments make a wide range of investments beyond physical infrastructure, many of which can benefit from transparent, data-driven programming. Such programs, including economic development incentives, should be based on outcomes and performance of the investments. Many economic development incentives, such as state and local tax abatements and credits, are provided without evaluating whether the provision of the incentive is in line with established goals. In addition, detailed information on such incentives is often unavailable, which prevents data-driven decision making.
The following describes strategies and associated actions to implement this recommendation.