State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Florida could be dubbed the Consistency State. From fiscal 2017 through 2019, as in the previous three years, its average grades remained the same in all five areas covered: a top A in budget forecasting; Bs in budget maneuvers, reserve funds, and transparency; and a C in legacy costs, which cover public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), principally health care.

The state is among only twelve to average an A in budget forecasting for the latest evaluation period. Florida has a consensus revenue estimating process that includes representatives of the governor, both legislative chambers, and the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. In addition, a 2006 constitutional amendment required the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to produce long-range financial projections, including critical needs, risks to forecast accuracy, and key budget drivers. 

Florida’s weakest grade was in management of legacy costs. Though pensions were 80 percent funded in 2018, 10 percentage points above the total for all states, the level was under the 90 percent needed to get full credit in our evaluation. The state also does not provide annual OPEB funding in line with actuaries’ recommendations.

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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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