State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Georgia was one of only ten states to garner a top grade of A for the handling of legacy costs in both fiscal 2017 and 2018. The increase from its C in 2016 gave the state an average of B for the three years.  

The state’s overhaul of funding practices for other postemployment benefits (OPEB) for public workers, notably health care, drove the improvement. Georgia’s 2015 evaluation showed minimal assets for school or other state OPEB funds, leaving it with an unfunded liability of nearly $14 billion. The state began to prefund OPEB in fiscal 2016, and its contributions matched actuarially determined amounts in fiscal 2017. While this indicates progress, Georgia has not instituted statutory policies committing it to continue contributing at levels that will lead to a fully funded OPEB trust in the long term.

In pensions, Georgia made its actuarially determined contribution and set aside 79.2 percent of the assets needed to meet promised benefits as of 2017, almost 11 percentage points above the US average. Georgia also stood out for its avoidance of budget maneuvers to balance its budget in 2016, 2017, and 2018, earning an A average in that category. The state did not defer recurring expenditures, shift revenues into the general fund from special funds, fund recurring expenditures with debt, or use asset sales in any of those three years. 

By contrast, Georgia’s three-year average of C in budget forecasting reflects its reluctance to use consensus revenue forecasting. Instead, the governor appoints a state economist to help prepare revenue estimates. Although consensus forecasting does not necessarily produce more accurate forecasts, it provides a more transparent and collaborative process.

Download Printable State Report Card

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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