State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Florida, the third-most populous state, stands out for exemplary budget forecasting procedures. The Sunshine State was one of only ten states to win a top average grade of A in forecasting for fiscal 2016 through 2018. Florida has a consensus revenue estimating process that includes representatives of the governor, both legislative chambers, and the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research. To produce estimates, economists consider a variety of taxes and other revenue sources, such as the corporate income levy; lottery, slot machine, and transportation revenues; and communications services taxes. 

In addition, a 2006 constitutional amendment requires the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to produce long-range financial projections, including critical needs, risks to forecast accuracy, and key budget drivers. The 2018 estimate covered fiscal 2019 through 2022.

The state’s average B grade in budget maneuvers reflects its shifting of money from special funds into the general fund. According to the nonpartisan research group Florida TaxWatch, about $320 million originally intended for other purposes was shifted to the general fund in fiscal 2018. Of that sum, the research group identified $224 million from affordable housing trust funds. 

Florida received a C average in legacy costs, largely because of a shortfall in funding of other postemployment benefits for public employees, mostly health care. 

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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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