State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Along with California, Idaho, and Tennessee, Utah earned an A average in three budgetary categories evaluated for fiscal 2016 through 2018. No state received more than three As.  

Utah’s top grade in reserve funds reflected its clear processes for disbursing and replenishing rainy day fund money. Among the policies, 25 percent of any revenue surplus is automatically transferred into reserves until they hit specified percentages of general fund and educational appropriations.

The state also received an A average in budget maneuvers by avoiding one-time revenue measures. It achieved the same grade in legacy costs by fully funding both its public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits, principally health care, in line with actuarial recommendations. 

Utah’s C average in transparency was attributable in part to its lack of regular tax expenditure reports, intended to help citizens and decision makers understand the state’s forgone revenue. 

Its C in budget forecasting stemmed from an absence of revenue or expenditure estimates beyond the current and upcoming fiscal year. However, after our fiscal 2018 research cutoff date of October 31, 2017, Utah improved its forecasting policies. A law enacted in March 2018 obligates the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst to produce a long-term budget every three years for programs appropriated from major funds and taxes. It also requires periodic publication of revenue volatility analyses and of stress tests for estimated revenue under various economic scenarios.

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 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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