State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Though it is one of the poorest states in the US, Mississippi achieved fairly high marks for its budgetary practices for fiscal 2016 through 2018. 

The state earned a B average in budget maneuvers, with an A score in the category for 2018. The improved mark came after Mississippi stopped relying on rainy day fund withdrawals to balance the budget. Mississippi also averaged a B in legacy costs. While it funded its public employee pension plans in line with actuaries’ recommendations, the retirement system’s funded ratio was just 61.1 percent in 2017—lower than all but ten other states and 7 percentage points lower than the national total.

Mississippi also scored a B average in transparency; its only shortcoming was a lack of disclosure of deferred infrastructure replacement costs. All but four states—Alaska, California, Hawaii, and Tennessee—failed to provide this figure.

Mississippi’s lowest average mark was a C in budget forecasting, primarily because it did not disclose multiyear expenditure or revenue forecasts. It did use consensus revenue estimates, however, developed by a committee composed of the state’s fiscal officer, economist, treasurer, and tax commission chair, and the director of the Legislative Budget Office.

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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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