Originally created 01/31/05

Economic report gives Georgia a "B"

ATLANTA - Georgia's state government gets an A grade for managing its employees, a B-minus for handling its money, and a C-plus for dealing with infrastructure needs in a new report that attempts to assess how states weathered the economic downturn of the last few years.

The national report lauds Georgia for "what may be the best-managed human resources operation in the country" and says that's a promising step for Gov. Sonny Perdue in pursuing his announced goal of making it the best-managed state in the nation by 2007.

Overall, the state rated a "B" in the report, which was produced by a team of scholars and journalists involved in the University of Richmond's Government Performance Project. The project is funded with a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Turning around a large state like Georgia takes time, but this shows we are making good progress," Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said.

In financial management, Georgia lost some points in the study for relying "on a few dubious budgeting gimmicks" in the past two years to help balance the budget - among them postponing pay raises.

And even though the state's credit rating is among the highest in the country, the researchers faulted Georgia for failing to employ a multiyear budgeting strategy or to develop a formal ranking system for prioritizing the state's construction needs.

Also, the researchers noted the state hasn't been able to complete its end-of-year financial reports on time for the several years because of lingering difficulties with the new financial management system at the Department of Community Health.

In praising the way Georgia manages its employees, the report cited a planning system that allows the state to identify future workforce needs, and noted that every employee is evaluated through system that rewards workers with bonuses for good work.

In addition, they said the state is able to hire and fire workers at above-average rates.

"Georgia has the ability to terminate underperforming employees without a great deal of red tape - something that it didn't have until recently, and that many states still don't have," the researchers found.

They apparently were referring to a 1996 change in state law that denied certain merit system protections to individuals hired after that date. Currently, about 70 percent of the state's workers are considered "at-will" employees, meaning they can be dismissed without triggering a series of reviews and hearings afforded to "classified" state employees.

The report also faulted the state for its failure to have a complete inventory of state-owned property, an issue Perdue has started to address.


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