Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has frequently talked about how he wants to improve the state, from ending child poverty to making the economy more competitive.

Moore, who took office last year, is now defining his vision of success for those goals for the first time and how they’ll be measured with the rollout of a “state plan” on Thursday — a follow-up to his State of the State address one day earlier, in which he pledged the plan would sharpen the focus of government.

The Democratic governor made his pitch to thousands of state employees in a mid-afternoon video presentation that was livestreamed from the State House.

“This is going to guide us. It’s going to show exactly how we need to move and it’s going to make sure we have core benchmarks for what success looks like,” Moore said as he paced around the Governor’s Reception Room and ran through slides during his 30-plus-minute presentation.

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The state plan has multiple layers, starting with 10 priorities that are described as “the highest aspirations for the state” and then multiple objectives for each priority. Beyond that are key performance indicators — “KPIs” — that represent the data points that will be tracked.

For example, when it comes to an aspirational goal the governor set last year, ending child poverty, the state will focus on getting more vulnerable families enrolled in benefits programs, investing in high-poverty communities through the governor’s proposed ENOUGH Act and programs that boost housing and economic opportunities.

The other nine priorities are: setting up students for success, creating a competitive economy, employing more Marylanders, creating safer communities, making the state a more affordable place to live, improving infrastructure, building a “world-class” health system, making Maryland the “greenest state in the country” and making Maryland “a state of service.”

Moore spoke broadly about the importance of each goal and how they would drive the work of state employees and agencies. But it wasn’t immediately clear how the goals and metrics would affect state workers.

He did offer plenty of praise for state workers, calling them “colleagues” who he is honored to serve alongside.

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“We have the best state workforce in this country. I will put our state workforce against anybody else,” Moore said.

The plan does not address two of the fundamental challenges facing state government: thousands of vacant jobs in state agencies and a looming budget shortfall to pay for state services in future years.

There isn’t yet a way for Maryland residents to follow along with the progress on the plan. Moore administration officials said an online dashboard would be forthcoming.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore appears on a livestream video explaining his new "state plan" alongside Asma Mirza, the state's chief performance officer, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore appears on a livestream video explaining his new “state plan” alongside Asma Mirza, the state’s chief performance officer, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.

The effort is led by Asma Mirza, a veteran of President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama’s administrations who was hired last summer as the state government’s chief performance officer. Mirza will lead a “performance cabinet,” but Moore administration officials said that there won’t be new positions created or additional costs to run the performance efforts.

Mirza appeared alongside Moore during part of the online presentation. She said the state plan will help turn the governor’s “ambitious agenda and vision to reality.”

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Multiple times during Moore’s lengthy presentation, someone in the room prompted the governor to move faster. At one point, he said: “My KPI is: ‘Speed it up!’”

The in-person audience included cabinet secretaries and other top officials, while an online audience of more than 5,000 workers also turned in.

It was billed as a “town hall” meeting, but only three questions were posed to the governor, and all were submitted in advance and screened.

The plan had some faint echoes of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “CitiStat” and “StateStat” programs that tracked key metrics when he was mayor of Baltimore and later governor. Moore administration officials said they did consult members of O’Malley’s team but also reviewed how several governors approached goal-setting and measurement.

Maryland government also already has a performance-tracking program called Managing For Results that dates back decades. Managing For Results is housed within the state budget office, and the process results in an annual report that’s hundreds of pages long, cataloguing data as varied as high school graduation rates and the harvest rate of female blue crabs.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County. 

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