State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Utah is a model of budgetary consistency and improvement. It was one of five states that received top A average grades in three of the five budget categories evaluated in fiscal 2015 through 2019. The others were California, Hawaii, Idaho, and Tennessee.

Utah’s A in budget maneuvers reflected a lack of one-time measures to cover recurring expenditures. The state also received an A in reserve funds, where its policies align with the best practices cited in the Volcker Alliance 2019 working paper Rainy Day Fund Strategies: A Call to Action.

It was also one of only seven states averaging an A in legacy costs. In Utah’s case, the mark reflects a 2010 reform that gave newly hired public workers a choice of a defined-contribution 401(k) retirement plan or a less generous traditional defined-benefit pension. After the move, Utah continued to make actuarially determined contributions to the pension and had a 92 percent funded ratio in 2019, 21 percentage points above the total for all states. It also funds other postemployment benefits (OPEB), mainly health care, along actuarial lines.

The state’s B average in forecasting reflected a 2018 statute ordering the Legislative Fiscal Office to make long-term projections of expenditures and revenues from major tax sources under different economic scenarios.

Utah’s weakest showing was its C in transparency. Although the state generally provided complete budget and debt information, it lacked comprehensive reports on tax expenditures. Like forty-four other states, it also failed to report information on deferred infrastructure maintenance costs in budgets or related documents.

Download Printable State Report Card

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 2021 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Preparing for the Storm, 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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