State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Ohio was one of sixteen states that failed to earn a top A average in any of the five budgetary categories studied in fiscal 2015 through 2019.
In budget maneuvers—the use of one-time actions to achieve balance—the state’s B average resulted from tactics in 2018 that included transferring money from special funds into the general fund and using $14.3 million of collections from a tax amnesty program to cover recurring expenditures.
While Ohio was like thirty-seven other states in earning a B average in transparency, its production of regular reports on tax expenditures was especially noteworthy. While most states create such reports, Ohio’s included an unusual amount of detail, including clear explanations, historical data, and comparative information on tax exemptions, deductions, credits, and exclusions.
The state averaged a C in legacy costs, including public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care. While it consistently provided annual pension contributions on an actuarially recommended basis, it did not do the same for OPEB. Still, Ohio set aside $12.6 billion for future retiree health costs, leaving its OPEB plan 47.8 percent funded at the end of fiscal 2019. Its 2019 pension funding ratio was 78 percent, 7 percentage points above the total for all states.
Ohio’s lowest grade, D, was in budget forecasting. The state failed to project revenues or expenditures beyond the budgetary biennium and was among twenty-one states that lacked a consensus revenue forecasting process.
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 found here contain grades of the state's budgetary practices during the fiscal years of 2015 through 2019. Each state received marks in five critical categories, based on their adherence to best practices in several key budgeting indicators. The five categories covered methods used to achieve budgetary balance as well as how budgets and other financial information are disclosed to the public.
States received grades of A to D-minus (there are no “failed states”) for their procedures in estimating revenues and expenditures; their use of one-time actions to balance budgets; how they oversee and use rainy day funds and other fiscal reserves; the adequacy of their funding of public worker retirement and other postemployment benefits; and the quality of transparency of budget and related financial information. The grades are based on research conducted by public finance and budgeting professors and students at eight US schools of public administration or policy. The universities’ research efforts were augmented by Volcker Alliance staff, data consultants at Municipal Market Analytics, and special project consultants Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene.
State Budget Sources
State Budget Sources: An Annotated Guide to State Budgets, Financial Reports, and Fiscal Analyses is a resource published by the Volcker Alliance designed to help public officials, policy advocates, journalists, academics, and concerned citizens fully understand the critical fiscal decisions that governors and legislators must make. The guide includes the links below to budgets for this state as well as legislative analyses of budget bills and treasurers’ or comptrollers’ monthly state cash-flow statements; capital spending plans; reports on public-worker pension funding and returns; and reports by local and national fiscal research organizations, bond rating firms, and associations of state fiscal and finance officials.