State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Missouri averaged D-minus, the lowest possible grade, in budget forecasting for fiscal 2017 through 2019. But it managed to improve slightly in the category in the last year by adopting a consensus revenue estimate after shunning such a forecast in the two previous years.

Consensus estimates attempt to avoid politically driven predictions by considering inputs from the executive and legislative branches, as well as outside experts. In the three-year period, executive and legislative staffs, along with representatives of the University of Missouri, produced revenue estimates together. But in 2017 and 2018, the governor and legislature did not officially accept the panel’s numbers. That lost the state credit for consensus revenue estimating in those years, which resulted in annual D-minus grades for budget forecasting. The governor and legislature concurred on the consensus figure in 2019, helping to lift the state’s annual mark in the category to a D, but the uptick was not enough to change the overall grade. Missouri continued to avoid producing multiyear estimates for revenues or expenditures and was one of only eight states that failed to provide a rationale for its projections of revenue growth. 

Missouri averaged a C in budget transparency. It did not produce a tax expenditure report as part of the budgeting process or disclose deferred infrastructure maintenance costs, a common shortcoming among states.

The state earned its highest grade, a top A average, in budget maneuvers because of its avoidance of one-time revenue measures to achieve budgetary balance. In reserve funds, Missouri averaged a B. 

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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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