Taking a page from the nation's top retailers, Iowa is making a new promise to its citizens: If you're not happy with the services you receive from state government, you get your money back.

The new policy, pushed by Governor Tom Vilsack and effective last July 1, is being piloted for three types of transactions: driver's licenses, corporate filings and stormwater permits. "We tried to pick items to pilot that involved a lot of Iowans, that were very visible, high impact and easy to understand," says Cynthia Eisenhauer, director of the state's management department.

The driver's license guarantee, which is in effect at two Department of Transportation offices, has so far resulted in about three dozen refunds out of thousands of transactions. Citizen grievances were mostly based on delays caused by errors the state made in driving records.

No refunds have been issued on the corporate-filing front, where the promise is a 10-day turnaround and where filing fees run anywhere from $20 to $100. Nor have any refunds been handed over for poor service in issuing stormwater permits. For these, the state's Natural Resources Department promises to review and act on permits within 20 days. The stakes here are considerably higher, with fees potentially running into the thousands of dollars.

Iowa may not stop at three-service guarantees. "If the response to the program so far is any indication," Eisenhauer says, "you can expect to see expanded pilots in the governor's next budget proposal."