State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Oklahoma was one of only four states to earn no lower than a B average in all five evaluated budgetary categories for fiscal 2017 through 2019. The other three were Maine, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
Oklahoma received top A averages in reserve funds and legacy costs, which cover public employee pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), particularly health care. Since 2012, the state has contributed more to pensions annually than the actuarially determined amounts—a dramatic change from past underfunding. Oklahoma’s pension was 81 percent funded in 2018, 11 percentage points above the total for all states and 9 points above its 2016 level.
Its A average in reserve funds reflects an Oklahoma constitutional requirement that revenue collections exceeding general fund estimates be deposited into the rainy day fund until it reaches 15 percent of the prior fiscal year’s general revenue fund balance. This ensures that revenue windfalls will be set aside, helping smooth out the impact of volatility. The policy for emergency disbursements follows best practices cited in the recent Volcker Alliance working paper, Rainy Day Fund Strategies: A Call to Action.
Oklahoma earned B averages in budget forecasting, budget maneuvers, and transparency. The last grade suffered from the state’s absence of budgetary disclosure of costs of deferred maintenance infrastructure, a shortcoming shared by forty-four other states as of 2019. In budget forecasting, Oklahoma missed making an A because it did not provide a reasonable, detailed rationale to support revenue growth projections in budget documents.
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 2017 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.