State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Mississippi improved its average in budget maneuvers to a top A for 2017 through 2019 from a B in the previous three-year period. The state posted an A in the category in both 2018 and 2019 after it stopped making transfers to the general fund to balance the budget.

The state’s lowest average was a C in budget forecasting. Though Mississippi produces monthly revenue reports, the state’s budget documents fail to include revenue forecasts that extend three years beyond the current one. The same is true for expenditures: Mississippi bases the following year’s estimated appropriations on the previous one’s actual outlays.

Mississippi averaged Bs in reserve funds and legacy costs. Though its pension liabilities were 63 percent funded in 2018—7 percentage points below the total for all states—Mississippi has contributed more than actuaries’ recommendations to retirement plans every year since 2015.  The state’s other postemployment benefits (OPEB), mostly health care, are sufficiently small that they did not play a role in its grade in the category.

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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 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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