State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Idaho was one of only four states to earn an A average in three of the five budgetary categories evaluated for fiscal 2016 through 2018 (no state received more than three top marks). California, Tennessee, and Utah also achieved that honor.
Long known for conservative budgeting, Idaho was given As in budget maneuvers, legacy costs, and reserve funds. It missed an A in transparency—scoring a B—because it does not disclose the cost of deferred infrastructure replacement.
The state’s biggest weakness was in budget forecasting, where it got a D, the second-lowest grade possible. Idaho does not use consensus revenue forecasts, the practice in twenty-seven other states as of 2018. Instead, the Division of Financial Management—part of the governor’s office—submits budget data collected from state agencies to the chief executive and legislature. They each examine the data, and their separate analyses are used to form the governor’s budget recommendations and the Legislative Budget Book.
Idaho also failed to provide long-term forecasts for expenditures and revenues; the legislative and executive branches forecast only for the current and following year. What rescued Idaho from a D-minus in the budget forecasting category was its publication of reasonable, detailed rationales to support revenue growth projections at the time of its initial budget in its yearly General Fund Revenue Book. Idaho also publishes a monthly report showing revenue estimates versus actual collections and summarizes why the latter may have exceeded or trailed estimates.
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 2016 through 2018. 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.