They also must ably manage state government, a large and complex organization with a $50 billion annual operating budget and nearly 80,000 employees. Even the best vision and policies mean little if they are not implemented with competence, compassion, transparency, accountability, and efficiency.
More than any other candidate, Tom Perez has the experience and ideas needed to make state government work. Not only has Tom run a major state government agency in Maryland– the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation – he also led the U.S. Department of Labor, overseeing an agency with a $14 billion budget, more than 16,000 employees, and a wide range of national programs.
Tom believes that state government should be far-sighted and strategic. Tom will support the development of strategic plans for attaining each of the state’s major goals, and connect those plans to performance measures and budgets. And as he’s done in every organization he’s led, Tom will also examine the inner workings of state programs to root out waste and inefficiency, drive innovation, and improve customer service. Instead of waiting for things to go wrong before fixing them, Tom will motivate his administration to continuously look for ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper.
As a leader on civil rights and labor, open, honest, and accessible data will be a cornerstone of the Perez-Sneed administration. Tom will not only enhance the current open data portal and dashboards used by state government, he will make usability and accessibility part of the decision making process on data sharing. Transparent governance will also meet people where they are; public feedback will be how Tom closes the communication loop.
Tom will build budgets differently. The building blocks will be the results residents want for the future, from which he will develop spending plans that align with those results, and fund programs that demonstrate effectiveness.
To inform budget decisions, Tom will review every state government program to determine the strength of evidence behind its design and delivery, and its alignment to the resident-identified results. The goal of this review is to direct – or redirect – funding to programs that are implementing proven strategies, whether it be to boost third-grade reading scores, connect people to jobs, or reduce recidivism. A public-facing dashboard that outlines the program assessments will provide residents visibility into how their desired priorities and needs are reflected in actual programming, ensuring government transparency and agency accountability. A few other states have shown the way on evidence-based budgeting; Maryland will become a leader quickly.
Budget projections now show large surpluses rather than the structural deficits that are usually projected. Tom supports adding a large amount to the rainy day fund now in order to protect essential state services from cuts when the next recession comes--which it will, without notice. The remainder of projected surpluses can be invested over the coming years in programs that will have an immediate impact on improving the lives of Maryland’s residents. In good times and bad, Tom will balance budgets honestly, making tough but necessary decisions and resisting creative accounting that leaves messes for future generations to clean up. He will enforce fiscal discipline to ensure that Maryland has adequate reserves to weather economic shocks, strong credit and debt capacity to make transformational investments, and policies that assure and secure a dignified retirement for state employees.
Tom will invite Marylanders to help him make these tough decisions, balancing tradeoffs with transparency and giving residents online and in-person opportunities to weigh in. Tom will also task a commission with studying how the state’s tax system could be simplified, in order to reduce the compliance burden faced by taxpayers, and to eliminate unfair preferences, which often go to large corporations and disadvantage small businesses.
Tom will seek to replicate the model of Maryland’s Local Management Boards (known in some counties as collaboration councils), which “braid and blend” public and private funding sources to address the needs of children. This is a potentially powerful approach to addressing other complex issues with locally-tailored solutions.
Similarly, Tom will expand on the Justice Reinvestment Act model, enabling Maryland to invest up-front in outcomes that reduce costly problems like crime, chronic disease, joblessness, and climate change in the future. A great example is Denver’s Social Impact Bond that has provided permanent supportive housing and wrap-around services for 250 individuals, paid for in part by savings to the criminal justice system and emergency care.
INNOVATION, TECHNOLOGY, AND EFFICIENCY
State government needs to address decades of neglect of its information technology infrastructure and implement a Digital Transformation to deliver necessary and critical services. It maintains dozens of antiquated, unprotected digital systems that do not communicate with each other and are not keeping up with the pace of life or business. This was made clear throughout the pandemic when technological challenges and processes prevented thousands of Marylanders from accessing crucial unemployment benefits. Another example is the State’s accounting system, which was implemented approximately 25 years ago and relies on obsolete programming to track spending and coordinate vendor payments. Maryland’s Department of Health should not have shut down services because of a cyberattack.
We must maintain our IT to today’s standards. This means investing in modern IT systems with a comprehensive cybersecurity plan so that we can deliver critical services when they are needed and can assure residents that their records are secure. Maryland is home to the nation’s top cybersecurity agencies and we should tap into these resources to protect our residents.
The Perez-Sneed administration will vastly expand the services Marylanders can access online, so that they can do business with state government at their convenience and without having to get in the car, pick up the phone, or fill out endless forms. This must also include automating benefits payments for retirees, allowing direct transfers into bank accounts. Digitizing and automating services will not only improve service delivery, it will also reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
Finally, Tom will actively seek ideas from the public to find “crowd sourced” solutions. Following the example of the federal government’s Challenge.gov program, Tom will tap into the brightest minds across the state to help solve some of our biggest problems.
Tom’s approach to managing state government will be to set clear goals, and then work and learn collaboratively to meet those goals.
While Maryland now has some elements of results-focused governance, attention to state government’s performance and results has waned under Governor Hogan. In Results for America’s 2021 State Standards of Excellence, Maryland is not a leading example for any of the 16 criteria, which include Strategic Goals, Innovation, and Evaluation Policy. Few agencies have strategic plans that help guide their actions. In the first year of Tom’s administration, departments and agencies will develop realistic plans for addressing major goals identified in Tom’s campaign, following guidance from existing statutes, and taking into account suggestions from citizens.
Tom knows that what gets measured gets managed. State government now has hundreds of metrics that can be monitored to ensure that each department’s mission is being accomplished--but often those measures are hard to interpret, receive little attention, and are not understood by or accessible to the citizens served. Publicly accessible dashboards will not only provide metrics but more importantly offer the public an explanation of why the numbers matter and how they relate to them.
Tom will concentrate on the most important performance measures, assure their accuracy, and use them to guide budget and management decisions. Programs that can show they have been successful at bringing value, and have the potential to build on that success, will be eligible for enhancements.
A key focus of Tom’s leadership will be to encourage collaboration. He will foster a team spirit across the organization. State government works best when agencies work together to solve cross-cutting problems, and formulate overlapping or shared goals where programs and services support and enhance each other.
Unfortunately, we know that even the best-managed governments sometimes fail to live up to high standards and customer expectations. Tom’s administration will learn and adjust. Strategic plans will be revised when conditions change. If programs fail to meet their objectives, and can’t be expected to do better if they are reformed, they will be eliminated.
Tom is especially sensitive to the frustration citizens feel when the government wastes their time. A recent Atlantic article called these bureaucratic burdens a “time tax.” Tom’s administration will cut the time tax by reducing paperwork, streamlining eligibility rules, and integrating IT systems to eliminate duplicative data entry. If a Marylander is qualified for SNAP, for example, that person will be seamlessly signed up for other benefits with similar eligibility requirements.
Tom will also bring a refreshing approach to customer service. When state government makes a mistake, Tom’s administration will do more than just apologize and make excuses. Front-line staff will be empowered to make things right, including with creative solutions like discounted fees and expedited service. In addition, agencies will quickly work to understand what caused the problem and make sure it’s not repeated.
HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT & MANAGEMENT
Tom’s leadership philosophy is to create the right conditions for his team members to succeed. He believes that if he pays attention to the well-being of state employees, they will perform at their best for all Marylanders. To this end, Tom will spend time on the front lines of state government, listening to employees at maintenance depots, human services offices, police posts, prisons, and everywhere else work is done on behalf of Maryland residents and businesses.
Tom will also introduce an organizational health dashboard to track data on employee satisfaction, health and safety, training, turnover, compensation, and other factors. He will review this data regularly with his cabinet, identify problems, and set targets for improvement. As part of his commitment to transparency and accountability, employee survey results for each agency will be public and used by agency heads to engage employees in making state government a great place to work.
Nationwide, the Great Resignation is impacting state and local government along with many other sectors. Employees are retiring and resigning at a high rate and job openings are hard to fill. Tom is committed to supporting home-grown Maryland public servants with 21st century skills by partnering with educational institutions across the state, including community colleges and HBCUs, to foster future civic leaders. To attract and retain the most talented people, Maryland’s next Governor will need to embrace the fact that the workforce and the workplace have, and continue to, change rapidly as a result of technological advances, generational and cultural shifts, and COVID-19. Tom understands the future of work and will seek to make state government jobs more flexible, data-smart, and eco-friendly.
Tom will engage state employees in making government services more effective and efficient. He will
- Establish a Labor Management Council to ensure that there is regular dialogue between agency heads and workers on a wide range of critical issues and bring front-line staff to the table, because they are closest to customers and know best how to eliminate unnecessary process steps that don’t add value;
- Explore Gainsharing, which is a labor-management partnership that shares savings for productivity improvements with the employees who make them happen; and
- Pursue an innovation fund to invest in projects that save money or generate new revenue and reward employees for their good ideas.
Pre-pandemic, Governor Hogan neglected the state workforce. A 2018 Department of Legislative Services (DLS) study found that trends of position reductions, high vacancy rates, and uncompetitive compensation were not being addressed. As a result, agencies were increasingly outsourcing work, even when it was not cost-effective to do so. Many agencies told DLS that they are simply a training ground for new hires who receive training and then leave to work for other governments that offer better compensation.
At a recent General Assembly briefing, state personnel officials reported that COVID has exacerbated understaffing, causing longer waits for driver’s license renewals and delays in unemployment insurance payments, EZ-Pass billing, and even autopsies.
Tom will take immediate and longer-term actions to revitalize an overworked and underpaid state government workforce. He will:
- Authorize additional positions where needed to address critical understaffing;
- Provide step/merit increases for state employees and target compensation increases to hard-to-fill positions;
- Get creative with benefits, providing alternative schedules, remote work, student loan assistance, and more.
- Reform hiring practices and procedures that take too long, are too rigidly structured, and don’t give the agencies the ability to select the best candidates.
- Employ the latest technology to streamline service delivery, optimizing workloads and freeing up resources for more competitive compensation.
A Perez-Sneed administration will actively work to remove obstacles and expand the ability to organize public employees in Maryland. In order to ensure that state employees always have the right to collective bargaining, Tom will support neutrality agreements, binding interest arbitration, and project labor agreements.