State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Alaska’s budget documents have included tables for deferred infrastructure maintenance costs, listed by agency, since at least 2015. The disclosure helped the state score a top average of A for transparency for fiscal 2017 through 2019. Alaska’s consolidated budget website, debt tables, and tax expenditure reports also contributed to its high mark. California, Hawaii, and Tennessee were the only other states to average As in transparency. 

In the budget maneuvers category, Alaska received a C average for using one-time measures that may create budget-balancing challenges in future years. For example, the state delayed payments to Medicaid providers from fiscal 2018 to 2019 as 2018 revenues fell $38 million short of spending commitments. 

Alaska was one of seventeen states to earn an A average in reserve funds. Its statutes align with best practices cited in the recent Volcker Alliance working paper, Rainy Day Fund Strategies: A Call to Action. The Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund is governed by clear rules concerning disbursements and replenishments, and Alaska is among twenty-one states that tie goals for reserve funds to revenue volatility.

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To emphasize the need for clear and comprehensible budgets to inform citizens, promote responsible policymaking, and improve fiscal stability, the Volcker Alliance in 2016 began a study of budgetary and financial reporting practices of all fifty states. The Volcker Alliance’s mission is to improve the effectiveness of the administration of government at all levels. Making state budgeting more transparent and accountable is an important part of that goal.

The report cards presented here are taken from the 2020 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: The Balancing Act, which proposes a set of best practices for policymakers. For those wishing to gain greater insight into state fiscal issues, the accompanying budget resource guide is derived from the Alliance publication State Budget Sources: An Annotated Guide to State Budgets, Financial Reports, and Fiscal Analyses (2016). 

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