State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Florida was a model of consistency, with solid average grades in four of the five budget categories studied in fiscal 2015 through 2019.

The state’s top A average in budget forecasting was buoyed by a long-standing process for consensus revenue estimating that includes the executive branch and representatives from both legislative chambers. Its expenditure forecasting is particularly detailed, with the Office of Economic and Demographic Research providing five-year projections of costs for social services, Medicaid, corrections, and other expenditures. Longer-range financial projections are also used to map out critical needs, forecast risks, and budget drivers.

Florida scored B averages in budget maneuvers, reserve funds, and transparency. The state eschewed most budget maneuvers—one-time actions to achieve balance—with the exception of shifting trust fund money into the general fund. In the reserve funds category, policies for withdrawing from the Budget Stabilization Fund and keeping it stocked are defined by law. Like twenty-nine other states, Florida does not consider revenue volatility in reserve policies. In legacy costs, including public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care, the state averaged a C. Florida was among thirty states with annual funding in line with actuarial recommendations for pensions each year from 2015 through 2019. The pension funding ratio in fiscal 2019 was 78 percent, 7 percentage points above the total for all states. The state does not fund OPEB on an actuarial basis.

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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 2021 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Preparing for the Storm, 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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