State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Georgia received average grades of B or higher for fiscal 2015 through 2019 in four of the five categories covered. The one exception was its C in budget forecasting. Unlike twenty-nine states that use the consensus method of revenue forecasting, Georgia’s estimates are produced by the state fiscal economist, who is appointed by the governor. Budgets built on the economist’s estimates offer no information about how they were calculated.
The best showing in Georgia’s report card was its top A average in budget maneuvers. With a healthy economy and diversified tax structure, the state avoided common actions to achieve balance, such as shifting money from special funds into the general fund, deferring expenditures, or using other one-time revenues for recurring expenditures.
The state averaged a B in legacy costs, including funding of public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care. It provided annual pension contributions in line with actuarial recommendations in all years studied but applied the same standard to OPEB only in 2017–19. Its pension was 79 percent funded in 2019, 8 percentage points above the total for all states.
Georgia, which has withdrawal and replenishment policies for its Revenue Shortfall Reserve, averaged a B in the reserve funds category. Any general fund surplus at the end of the fiscal year must be added to the reserve, which held $2.8 billion, or 11 percent of expenditures, in 2019. Georgia does not consider historical revenue volatility in reserve fund policies.
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 2015 through 2019. 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.