State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
While Wyoming depends on severance taxes for much of its revenues, it fails to consider the levy’s volatility in managing its rainy day fund. This shortcoming, and the state’s lack of policies to guide disbursements from its Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, accounted for its C average in reserve funds for fiscal 2015 through 2019. The mark would have been lower if a replenishment policy had not been established in 2017.
In contrast, Wyoming follows solid budget forecasting practices that earned it a B average in the category. The state uses five-year revenue estimates developed for each biennial budget. The forecasts are made by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which was created in 1983 by the executive and legislative branches. It includes members from the Departments of Education and Revenue, Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Wyoming State Geological Survey, and the University of Wyoming. The state lacks multiyear expenditure estimates, however.
In legacy costs, which includes public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), primarily health care, the state received the lowest possible mark, D-minus. While its pension funding ratio was 77 percent in 2019, 6 percentage points above the total for all states, Wyoming did not fund pensions or OPEB on an actuarially recommended basis. It posted a B average in budget maneuvers. Among one-time actions taken during the study period, it tapped the rainy day fund to cover recurring expenditures as oil and natural gas prices fell in 2018.
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.