State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Although legislators established Kansas’s rainy day fund in 2016, a lack of deposits helped earn the state a D average in reserve funds for 2017 through 2019. Only one other state—Illinois—averaged a D, the second-lowest mark possible. Until enactment of its rainy day fund law, Kansas deposited surplus revenues into the general fund, which had a $447 million balance at the beginning of 2019, according to that year’s Comparison Report, which shows legislative adjustments to the governor’s budget. The first rainy day fund deposit, originally slated for 2017, has been delayed several times, with 2018 legislation moving the first regular deposit from 2019 to 2021. Kansas also has failed to link its rainy day fund policies to historical revenue volatility or establish rules for disbursement or replenishment. 

In budget maneuvers, the state’s three-year average rose to C from D in the previous evaluation, reflecting less reliance on one-time revenue from asset sales to balance the budget. While the fiscal 2017 revised budget included a $25 million revenue transfer to the state general fund from the sale of Kansas Bioscience Authority assets, the state’s consensus revenue forecast estimated no asset sales in the following two years.

The state’s D average in legacy costs, which cover public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), principally health care, was a result of its failure to make annual pension payments in line with actuarial recommendations. Pensions were 69 percent funded in 2018. 

The one exception to Kansas’s relatively low grades was a B in transparency. It does not disclose the cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance. 

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 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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