State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Despite deep-seated fiscal woes that delayed passage of its biennial budget by almost four months in 2017, Connecticut scored relatively well in three of the five budgetary categories evaluated by the Volcker Alliance for fiscal 2015 through 2017.

The state garnered overall B marks for transparency and reserve funds, and its forecasting grade rose from B in 2015 and 2016 to A in 2017 because Connecticut avoided midyear budget adjustments in 2017. That made it one of just nine states to receive the highest possible grade in the category that year. Reflecting its use of a best practice in estimation, Connecticut’s two-year budget, which started July 1, 2015, included projections for fiscal 2018, 2019, and 2020, with detail provided by fund and revenue source, along with the assumptions used to make the projections.

Connecticut did not fare well in managing costs for pensions and postretirement health care benefits over the long term and received straight D’s for the three years covered. Even though the state made its actuarially determined contributions for the three years studied, past decisions to appropriate less than actuaries recommended left Connecticut facing unfunded liabilities of $27 billion in the pension system. Connecticut has just 49 percent of what is needed to pay promised benefits, versus an average of 72 percent for all US states as of 2015.

Download Printable State Report Card

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 2017 Volcker Alliance report, Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: What Is the Reality? 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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