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New Vt. Law Calls For Accountability

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Montpelier — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation Wednesday that he predicted will help Vermont assess whether it’s spending public money wisely and whether state programs are working to improve the lives of residents.

In a signing ceremony, the governor said the new law will help with the collection of information that can be used to determine if a particular program is working.

“We rarely ask the question, as we continue to throw more money at these programs, ‘are we getting the data-driven results that we believe we’re getting when we give you more money,’ ” the governor said.

The new law requires the state’s chief performance officer to oversee the collection of a variety of measures, such as median household income, the percent of adults who smoke, and the percent of the population living in poverty. The measures also include environmental and crime information.

Under the law, the performance officer must report to the Legislature by July 30 of each year on the percentage of state contractors and grant recipients in compliance with performance accountability requirements.

Susan Zeller, the state’s chief performance officer, said the state already collects a lot of data, but information collected under the new law will be compiled in a way that will make it more useful to policymakers.

“We do a lot of data collection, but we have it more as statistics and not as benchmarks against performance,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, the original sponsor of the legislation, said she hopes the law marks the beginning of a process that tracks how well state money is used.

Shumlin also signed legislation Wednesday to make it easier for people to take advantage of new technologies to make their homes more energy efficient and save money on heating costs; he plans to sign a bill Thursday to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

Earlier this week, he signed legislation that raises the state’s minimum wage and that requires police to get more training before using electronic stun guns.

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