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.
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 2016 through 2018. 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.