State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Improving its grade in budget maneuvers to A in 2018 from B the year before, Oregon became one of sixteen states to earn an A average in the category for fiscal 2016 through 2018. This category tracks one-time actions used to cover recurring expenditures and balance budgets. While Oregon’s 2015-17 biennial budget contained many one-time allocations from special funds to meet obligations of the general fund, the state made no material transfers in 2018.
The state also achieved an A average in legacy costs, along with seven other states. For all three years studied, Oregon consistently made annual contributions recommended by actuaries for pensions and other postemployment benefits, primarily health care. Its pension funded ratio of 83.1 percent, as of 2017, was about 14 percentage points above the total for all states.
Oregon received a B average in the transparency category. Like most states, it did not disclose information about deferred infrastructure replacement costs, which are no less a long-term liability than pensions or debt.
The state’s lowest grade was its C average in budget forecasting. Oregon did not use consensus revenue estimates or disclose multiyear expenditure forecasts. Longer-term forecasts could alert the state to possible budget stresses.
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 2016 through 2018. 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.