State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

The Volcker Alliance awarded Georgia a top grade of A in the category of budget maneuvers for fiscal 2015 through 2017 for its willingness to shun one-time actions to achieve balance. In the four other budgetary areas evaluated, the state received no overall grade below C for the period.

Georgia was among fifteen states in 2017 that substantially avoided practices such as using borrowing proceeds, municipal bond coupon premiums, or other up-front cash flows at the time of refinancing to pay for recurring expenditures. It also avoided making transfers into the general fund from special funds to pay for current expenditures.

Budget forecasting was a weaker category, with an average grade of C. Georgia does not use a consensus method for estimating revenues. Consensus estimates are intended to ensure that multiple contributors—usually including at least the governor and legislature—arrive at a single number on which to build a budget. Georgia can generate opaque budgets; its budget revenue estimate for the three years covered by the study was accompanied by little explanation of the assumptions and methodology used to produce it.

Georgia’s average B mark in transparency for the three years covered is highlighted by its extensive disclosure of the costs of tax expenditures and abatements. The disclosures are contained in the annual Tax Expenditure Report, prepared for the governor’s office by the Fiscal Research Center of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University (one of the schools participating in the research network for this project).

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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 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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