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.

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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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