State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Virginia’s average budgetary grades for fiscal 2015 through 2019 in the budget maneuvers and legacy costs categories reflect past shortcomings more than recent reforms.
In budget maneuvers—the use of one-time measures to achieve balance—Virginia received a C average despite having weaned itself from practices that deferred recurring expenditures or funded them with debt. Its remaining maneuver in fiscal 2019 was requiring businesses to accelerate sales tax payments that would ordinarily be paid in the next fiscal year. The number of businesses affected declined, however, as the state sought to reduce its reliance on this tactic.
Virginia’s D average in legacy costs, the second-lowest mark possible, stemmed partly from funding public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care, at less than actuarially recommended levels in 2015–17. In 2018, however, the state began making full actuarial pension contributions; it did the same for OPEB the next year. Its funding ratio for pensions was 77 percent in 2019, 6 percentage points above the total for all states.
Virginia achieved a top A average for reserve funds based on policies that guide withdrawal and replenishment and establish a link between rainy day fund deposits and revenue volatility. The state has room to improve in the transparency category, where it scored a C average for its lack of comprehensive annual or biennial reporting on tax expenditures and because it does not disclose deferred infrastructure maintenance costs.
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.