Category Archives: Public Administration

What everyone should know about their state’s budget

Source: Urban Institute, 2017
[tool was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation]

State and local governments educate schoolchildren, train the future workforce, care for the sick and elderly, build roads, patrol neighborhoods, extinguish fires, and maintain parks. In short, they’re pretty important. But few Americans understand where their state and local tax dollars go and to what effect. It’s not just the amount of money spent that matters, it’s why that money is spent the way it is.

Through this web tool, we aim to fill that knowledge gap. The tool allows users to get under the hood of their government and understand not only how much a state spends but also what drives that spending.

To do this, we apply a basic framework to all major areas of government spending. The framework says that state spending per capita is both a function of how many people receive a service and how much that service costs the state for each recipient. ….

…In this tool, you’ll see the spending per capita breakdown for all states and the District of Columbia across all major functional categories. It allows you to see how each state ranks, and you can sort by any factor you choose. (One frequent outlier is DC; though included in the rankings, it often functions more like a city than a state) We’ve included some annotations to guide you along the way. By exploring the tool, you’ll gain a sense of how much each state spends on any given area and why states spend what they do. ….

Experts, Amateurs, and Bureaucratic Influence in the American States

Source: Graeme T. Boushey and Robert J. McGrath, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Advance Access, First published online: August 27, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Over the past century, the size and reach of American state governments has increased dramatically, altering the balance of power across state capitols. Although state legislatures were historically privileged as “firsts among equals,” modern administrative reforms have transformed state governments from legislative-centric to executive-dominated systems. In many states, part-time citizen legislatures now operate alongside fully professionalized executives. We introduce a new measure capturing the relative professionalism of state legislative and executive branches, allowing us to explore the policy consequences of the rising imbalance of power across states governments. Drawing upon a large panel data set of proposed and adopted state regulations from 1990 through 2010, we demonstrate that the eroding policy expertise of state legislators has resulted in increased bureaucratic participation in the policy process, as amateur politicians rely more heavily on professionalized executive agencies to define problems and develop solutions. Our findings highlight intuitive, yet understudied, consequences of common institutional reforms and speak to recent and recurring debates about the separation of powers and public policymaking.

Office Ergonomics Evaluation in a Naturalistic Work Environment

Source: Jia-Hua Lin, Stephen Bao, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, Publication #:62-3-2016, 2016

An ergonomics evaluation study was conducted for Insurance Services – Support Services within Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The objectives ofthe study were:
1) To identify ergonomic risk factors that may be associated with updated technologies that the existing guidelines might not take into account.
2) To measure physical exposures to workers from current tasks and office equipment, and compare with historical trends

….The results showed that workers spent a slightly more time on computers than 7 years ago, with an additional increase of other tasks at the desk. The employees were at their desk, sitting or standing, for about 74% of the time, and 44% of the work shift was spent for data entry in the current study. In comparison, 80% time at desk (performing data entry and other desk tasks) and 60% for data entry in the 1991 study…..

How you buy affects what you get: Technology acquisition by state governments

Source: Kawika Pierson, Fred Thompson, Government Information Quarterly, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online June 24, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research suggests that governments should rely on standardized information technology solutions rather than custom built ones. We find that, for many categories of taxes, states that have contracted out the development of their tax-processing systems to providers offering standardized solutions see statistically and economically significant increases in collections relative to states that have not. We find no evidence that financial administration expenditures increase for these states. At the same time, there are several categories of taxes where we do not find a positive impact. We reconcile these findings by developing a qualitative argument that standardized solutions in tax administration may be most effective for the types of taxes that are the most difficult to enforce.

Highlights
• Leverages a natural experiment to test government IT acquisition strategies.
• Uses tax collection as an objective outcome measure.
• Compares governments that adopt more standardized solutions with those that do not.
• Governments with standardized solutions show significantly higher tax collections.
• Collection improvements seem more likely in taxes that are harder to enforce.

Stronger together​: What’s driving the government co-op market

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, June 7, 2016

Government Co-ops – it’s a term many city and county officials have heard, but few outside of the public procurement profession really understand intimately. And while it may not be important for every government worker’s day-to-day job, billions of dollars pass through these organizations annually. Knowing how and why these entities work will only grow in importance as they become more popular. So what are government co-ops, how do they function, and how are they impacting the way governments deliver goods and services?…

Alone in the back office: the isolation of those who care to support public services

Source: Clare Butler, Anne Marie Doherty, Jocelyn Finniear, Stephen Hill, Work Employment & Society, Vol. 29 no. 4, August 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Prior research suggests that it is through providing direct support to citizens that public servants gain a source of meaning in their work; and affirm their public service identities. This article explores how employees who work in a public service support function and receive little, if any, direct feedback from citizens may maintain their public service identity during their back office work. The study finds, against much previous empirical research, that these back office employees achieve positive identity affirmation through bureaucratic work. The findings also show that they affirm their caring and community focused public service identity by noting their superiority in this regard when compared with colleagues. However, this augmented self-narrative results in many experiencing feelings of isolation. The article discusses how these findings extend the understanding of identity affirmation among back office public servants and may improve our ability to effectively support these workers.

Coping During Public Service Delivery: A Conceptualization and Systematic Review of the Literature

Source: Lars L. G. Tummers, Victor Bekkers, Evelien Vink and Michael Musheno, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, January 12, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Frontline workers, such as teachers and social workers, often experience stress when delivering public services to clients, for instance because of high workloads. They adapt by coping, using such practices as breaking or bending rules for clients, or rationing services. Although coping is recognized as an important response to the problems of frontline work, the public administration field lacks a comprehensive view of coping. The first contribution of this article is therefore theoretical: conceptualizing coping during public service delivery and developing a coherent classification of coping. This is done via a systematic review of the literature from 1981 to 2014. The second contribution is empirical: via a systematic review of the literature from 1981–2014 this article provides a framework and analytical account of how coping during public service delivery has been studied since 1980. It highlights the importance of the type of profession (such as being a teacher or a police officer), the amount of workload, and the degree of discretion for understanding how frontline workers cope with stress. It also reveals that frontline workers often draw on the coping family “moving towards clients” revealing a strong tendency to provide meaningful public service to clients, even under stressful conditions. We conclude with an agenda for future studies, examining new theoretical, methodological and empirical opportunities to advance understanding of coping during public service delivery.