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.
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 2016 through 2018. 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.