State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Kansas received some of the lowest average grades of any state for fiscal 2016 through 2018, with four Ds and one B. 

While it uses the consensus method of budget forecasting, the state nonetheless posted a D average in the category—the second-lowest mark possible. Kansas shuns multiyear expenditure and revenue forecasts and fails to provide clear justifications for shorter-term revenue estimates.

The state’s policies also earned it a D in the reserve funds. A budget stabilization fund created by legislation in 2016 was initially scheduled to be implemented in July 2017, but a law enacted that year pushed the first scheduled deposit into the fund to fiscal 2020.

Kansas’s use of budget maneuvers left it with a D average in that category as well, although it showed a small improvement in 2018 as it stopped deferring recurring expenditures. The move helped earn the state a C that year. 

It also received a D average in legacy costs, largely because for many years it put less money into its pension funds than the state’s actuaries have determined is necessary. In fiscal 2016, Kansas deferred $97.4 million in contributions to its primary retirement system. While the state had planned to make the delayed contribution, plus interest, in fiscal 2018, the amount was not paid until March 2019 after the governor signed an appropriation bill into law. 

The state’s average B for transparency reflected its failure to disclose deferred infrastructure replacement costs.

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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 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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