State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

The Volcker Alliance’s assessment of budgetary practices in Illinois placed the state alongside Alabama, Kansas, and New Jersey as those receiving the most D or D-minus grades across the five categories studied for fiscal 2015 through 2017.

Illinois was unique, however, in that it went for almost three years without enacting any budget at all as the legislature and governor fought over taxes and spending priorities limited by $119 billion in pension debt and more than $16 billion in past-due bills. Not until July 6, 2017, did legislators override a gubernatorial veto and pass a budget for fiscal 2018—the first full revenue and spending plan enacted since the one for fiscal 2015.

Reflecting the absence of a budget for fiscal 2016 through 2017, Illinois received average grades of D-minus in forecasting and legacy costs, a D in budget maneuvers, and a C for reserve funds. Its best average grade, B, was in the transparency category, primarily due to the state’s consolidated budget website and debt tables.

Most of the trends in annual grades were down for the three years studied, suggesting that Illinois may encounter renewed difficulties closing budget gaps in the years ahead. The state’s fiscal stress is exacerbated by a pension funding ratio of 40 percent, the third lowest, after 38 percent for Kentucky and New Jersey.

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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