Missouri has been highlighted as a leader in use of cost-benefit analysis to determine whether state programs and services are worth the taxpayers’ money put into them.  Director Gary VanLandingham with the Pew Charitable Trust-MacArthur Foundation’s Results First Initiative says Missouri is one of ten states that have used the principle well in the last four years.

He says Missouri has used cost-benefit analysis seventeen times since 2009 to evaluate programs  and initiatives.  He says it’s a good way to measure whether tax credits can be justified.

VanLandingham says the process works better in some circumstances than in others. “When there are very tangible results that are being produced or are  predicted to be produced by a program, it is easier to put a dollar value on those. And sometimes, particularly programs or initiatives that are doing things like saving time, it is harder to put a value on them,” he says. .

VanLandingham says most of the studies done here focused on economic development initiatives or transportation department initiatives.

He says the strongest cost-benefit evaluations focus on the long term.  “It’s one of the powers of this technique,” he says, “That’s particularly important when looking at policies like education programs or pre-kindergarten programs where the state is trying to achieve goals that will not be achieved for many years.” 

Kansas is the only neighboring state of Missouri getting praise in the study for what is called “data-driven policy-making.”

AUDIO: VanLandingham interview 14:29