For a better Vermont

Campaign for Vermont (CFV) recently released its latest policy paper "Achieving Accountability: Transforming State Government into a Modern, Transparent 21st Century System." This marks another significant milestone for our independent, non-partisan advocacy group - the fastest growing grassroots organization in Vermont. More importantly, our paper and its call to action, details a fundamental transformation in how our state government operates and is held accountable. The transformation we propose is based on a simple concept: Transparency.

Our ability to grow the economy and provide a helping and compassionate hand to those who need one is at significant risk because the systems we rely on to help are at risk of collapsing financially under the burden of their own inefficiencies. Vermont is at a critical fork in the road - the time is now to take this responsibility seriously.

The ideas laid out by CFV would, if adopted, inspire transformative change within state agencies and departments to better focus its resources, operate more effectively and be held accountable for all of its actions and outcomes - ultimately creating economic security and prosperity for all Vermonters. CFV calls for five specific policy actions: Providing the public systems for tracking results and progress toward clearly defined goals; creating an independent transparency authority with clear powers to compel state government to reform its management and reporting systems; requiring that every piece of legislation include accountability and transparency measures, meaning each piece of legislation would need a statement of purpose, statement of the problem and the expected outcome, specific measures of success, and details about how often data would be collected and reported to the public; real-time reporting of financial data so that every Vermonter can go online and see how, where and why their hard-earned money is being spent; and to ensure there are clear ethics policies and enforcement systems.

In short, these actions would work to control unnecessary spending and serve as an antidote to a high tax burden while continuing to strengthen needed programs and initiatives.

Transparency is the best way to achieve efficiency, increase productivity and meet the state's biggest challenges - chronic poverty, affordability - skyrocketing costs of living and unsustainable tax burdens, negative demographics and limited job opportunities. Thorough, consistent and transparent measurement and tracking of government programs - an idea known as Results Based Management in some circles - would be transformative.

By providing lawmakers, public managers and residents with the necessary tools to accurately and promptly measure effectiveness and value in programs and services, we can prioritize investment spending in areas where more bold and transformational reforms are required - like job creation, health care and education.

For more than 100 years, state government and the political system that shapes it have evolved with a deep institutional reliance on outdated bureaucratic processes and systems - often with good reason, back then. Put another way, when a government agency or initiative is not successful, they are rarely eliminated and another is often created to do what the first could not - and both are funded. It's time for change.

The transformation proposed by CFV represents a departure from the familiarity and security of the old systems of government and will no doubt meet resistance from those whose political fortunes and special interests are inextricably linked to these outdated systems. We cannot, however, continue to measure the value or progress based on how much we are spending with little, or no, actionable data. To borrow a familiar saying: We cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing, because we'll just keep getting what we've been getting.

Addressing this challenge - making transformational change - is why CFV was established, is the basis for all our policy ideas, and is the reason CFV is the fastest growing grassroots organization in Vermont.

To read CFV's complete transparency and accountability paper, visit and click on the link Transforming State Gov.

Bruce Lisman of Shelburne is a founding officer of Campaign for Vermont.


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