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.
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 found here contain grades of the state's budgetary practices during the fiscal years of 2017 through 2019. Each state received marks in five critical categories, based on their adherence to best practices in several key budgeting indicators. The five categories covered methods used to achieve budgetary balance as well as how budgets and other financial information are disclosed to the public.
States received grades of A to D-minus (there are no “failed states”) for their procedures in estimating revenues and expenditures; their use of one-time actions to balance budgets; how they oversee and use rainy day funds and other fiscal reserves; the adequacy of their funding of public worker retirement and other postemployment benefits; and the quality of transparency of budget and related financial information. The grades are based on research conducted by public finance and budgeting professors and students at eight US schools of public administration or policy. The universities’ research efforts were augmented by Volcker Alliance staff, data consultants at Municipal Market Analytics, and special project consultants Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene.
State Budget Sources
State Budget Sources: An Annotated Guide to State Budgets, Financial Reports, and Fiscal Analyses is a resource published by the Volcker Alliance designed to help public officials, policy advocates, journalists, academics, and concerned citizens fully understand the critical fiscal decisions that governors and legislators must make. The guide includes the links below to budgets for this state as well as legislative analyses of budget bills and treasurers’ or comptrollers’ monthly state cash-flow statements; capital spending plans; reports on public-worker pension funding and returns; and reports by local and national fiscal research organizations, bond rating firms, and associations of state fiscal and finance officials.