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. 

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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 2020 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: The Balancing Act, 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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