State mandates: Stimulus Policy

State mandates: Stimulus Policy

CHICAGO – “Do any state legislators really have a clue when it comes to prioritizing projects for Stimulus Package funding?” questions James Carlini.
There is a lot of money coming to every state from a federal funding stimulus package. How are they going to spend it?
There are many people coming out of the woodwork with reasons that their agency or organization needs more money. To them, this is the most critical thing that they know must be funded with the Stimulus money. Nothing else matters.
Free money! There are also some people that think their individual business should get a couple million dollars so they can go to the next level. Everyone should get a million or two.
Wake-up Call
Sorry to all those that think the federal government is the “Goose that just laid the golden egg” in everyone’s backyard. There are many more requests than there are available funds.
In working with my local state senator of Illinois, Mike Noland, I have observed that he is very concerned about the distribution of the money available. I sincerely hope that every legislator takes their job as seriously as he does.
The question on his mind that should be on the mind of every state legislator in every state accepting Stimulus money is: “How do we distribute this to get the most good out of this one-time “Goose” of the funding mechanism.”
First, you have to take into consideration that it is a one-time handout, bailout, whatever word you are comfortable with. You cannot permanently expand a service or hire an employee based on this one-time gift. You need to spend it wisely and somehow rise above all the noise that is being created by all these agencies, organizations and individual lobbyists that are trying to tell their legislator that they MUST fund this endeavor or initiative that is paramount to some agency’s survival.
What do we cut? That question seems to be on a lot of local government bodies’ minds when it comes to creating next year’s budgets. Some cannot come to grips with the realities of what they were elected for – to represent the people and be accountable to them for fiduciary responsibility.
You have to make some serious decisions about what can be left in a budget and what has to be cut. Nothing is sacred and laying off people may be the only option left. Many municipalities are facing this right now
Creating some type of prioritization process
For every state agency, municipality and any other local government or agency that gets funded by state and local funds, they should be reviewed by some type of objective process before they just get handed a clump of money.
Requests for funding of projects have to be reviewed and determined for their impact to the community and legislative district. With two different funding mechanisms that must be utilized for maximum benefit (the Federal Stimulus Package and the state’s Capital Funding Program), a structured approach is needed and should be adopted by every legislative office.
First, a project should be defined as beneficial using the ICARE© Model:

  • Individual organization or group
  • Community (Municipality)
  • Area (several municipalities)
  • Region (the full legislative district)
  • Everyone in the State

Once that initial benefit analysis is established, a secondary criteria can be applied to prioritize each project ranking them within that level of ICARE:


This three-level ranking approach below provides a second sorting refinement to prioritize projects and afford a realistic gauge as to what should be best for individual organizations, communities, areas (multiple communities) and regions (full legislative district) Where:

  • CRITICAL is defined as : Public Safety, Public Health, Infrastructure and provide critical services that should not be cut. (Here is where each district needs to discuss and determine for their respective district)
  • NECESSARY as defined as providing necessary services.
  • OPTIMAL as defined as new program, benefit, or expansion of services. (If there is any money left.)

This provides a structured approach to analyzing where limited funding can best be applied and utilized for the greater good of the district and the state. There needs to be long-term investments that create a broad residual value as the primary intent, rather than short-term expenses which benefit only a narrow group.
In these financial times, just keeping the same level of funding for every agency may be considered a great accomplishment. No one should expect an automatic increase in funding.
Hopefully, you will share this with your state rep or state senator as I am sure that they would be eager to look for some objective way to sort through potential projects. Not every legislator is named Jimmy Dean. Not everyone has a primary focus on Pork projects for the Stimulus package.
As Senator Noland stated, “In this era of transparency, I believe everyone will be asking how we came to these conclusions.”
Carlinism: When there is no objective yardstick to measure and prioritize project funding, it always become a perception of Pork.
Houses have gone from your largest single investment to something to just live in.
Recent columns by James Carlini

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and is president of Carlini & Associates. He can be reached at or 773-370-1888. Check out his blog at
James Carlini will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming Broadband Properties SUMMIT ’09 in Dallas, April 27th -29th discussing “Intelligent Infrastructure”.
See James Carlini’s latest interview on COMCAST’s Newsmakers Program five minutes before the hour on the CNN Channel all next week starting on April 25th on the critical issues facing Illinois.
This article previously appeared in, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.