State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Delaware received an average grade of B in budget forecasting for fiscal 2016 through 2018. It missed out on a top mark of A largely because it does not disclose multiyear expenditure forecasts. This lack of long-term visibility into spending trends can present a planning challenge if the legislature or governor intend to expand services in coming years.

Delaware earned an A average for its lack of budget maneuvers over the three years. The absence of two of the most common maneuvers—deferring recurring expenditures and temporarily shifting revenues to the general fund from special funds—helped Delaware enter this relatively elite club.

The state’s lowest grade, a C average in legacy costs, is largely attributable to its failure to fund postemployment benefits for public workers, mainly health care, at the level recommended by the state’s actuaries. 

Delaware got three-year average grades of B in both reserve funds and transparency. The marks reflect common shortcomings of states: a failure to tie fiscal reserves to revenue volatility and a lack of disclosure of deferred infrastructure maintenance costs, respectively.

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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 2018 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Preventing the Next Fiscal Crisis 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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