State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Wyoming took steps in 2017 to improve public worker pension funding by raising scheduled annual employer and employee contributions through 2021. It also reduced payments to workers who leave before they are vested in the pension system. Nonetheless, the state was one of seven for fiscal 2017 through 2019 to average a D-minus, the lowest possible grade, in legacy costs, which cover pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), principally health care. Wyoming did not make annual actuarially determined contributions to either for 2017–19. Pensions were funded at about 69 percent in 2018, about 1 percentage point below the total for all states.
The state averaged a C in reserve funds. As the nation’s largest coal-producing state and a major producer of natural gas and crude oil, Wyoming depends heavily on volatile energy revenues. Yet its rainy day fund is not tied to historical revenue volatility—a best practice recommended in the recent Volcker Alliance working paper, Rainy Day Fund Strategies: A Call to Action.
Wyoming was also one of only eight states to average lower than a B in transparency. Its C average stemmed from limited reporting of tax expenditures and a lack of disclosure of deferred infrastructure maintenance costs. The state’s best grades were its B averages in budget forecasting and budget maneuvers. Its Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which prepares official state forecasts, is led by legislative and executive budget officers and has a diverse membership that includes mineral experts and representatives from the Department of Revenue and the University of Wyoming. It publishes a five-year outlook with every biennial budget.
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 2017 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.