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.
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.