State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Oregon’s general avoidance of one-time measures to achieve fiscal balance won it a top A average in budget maneuvers, its best mark in five categories evaluated in fiscal 2015 through 2019. Over the period, the state did not defer recurring expenditures, use borrowed money, or sell assets to cover recurring expenditures. Only once, in the biennium that ended in fiscal 2017, did the legislature authorize a special fund transfer, moving some Racing Commission dollars to the general fund.
The state earned B averages in reserve funds, transparency, and legacy costs. Its two reserve accounts, the Oregon Rainy Day Fund and the Education Stability Fund, held almost $1.3 billion in 2019, equivalent to 12.7 percent of general fund expenditures. That compares with $391 million, or 4.8 percent, in 2015. The state has policies that guide the funds’ disbursement and replenishment, but it is one of thirty that fail to take revenue volatility into account in those policies.
In transparency, Oregon provided substantial budgetary information online and published tax expenditure reports alongside each biennial budget. But it did not report on deferred infrastructure maintenance costs. In legacy costs, which includes public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care, the state followed actuarial recommendations for pensions and OPEB, with the exception of 2015, when its annual pension funding fell short of actuaries’ figures. The pension funded ratio in 2019 was 80 percent, 9 percentage points above the total for all states.
Oregon’s C average in budget forecasting reflected a lack of consensus revenue forecasting and multiyear expenditure estimates. The state’s quarterly forecasts are solely the product of the Office of Economic Analysis, which answers to the governor, and expenditure forecasts do not extend past the biennial budget.
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.