State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

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

Kansas’s average of D for budget maneuvers reflected the use of several one-time actions to balance the budget over the period studied. In fiscal 2016, the state sold a $1 billion bond at an interest rate of slightly less than 5 percent. In the same year, Kansas also deferred $97 million in pension contributions. It has funded only 65 percent of its long-term pension liabilities. That figure is 7 percentage points below the 2015 average for all states and one of several contributors to the state’s D-minus grade in the category of legacy costs.

Kansas uses consensus revenue forecasts, a best practice in which multiple contributors—usually including at least the governor and legislature—determine a single number on which to build a budget. Its overall grade of D-minus in the forecasting category, however, reflects its lack of multiyear revenue forecasts; multiyear expenditure forecasts; and disclosure of a reasonable, detailed rationale to support estimates of revenue growth.

Even though the state received straight D’s in reserve funds for the three years covered, Kansas passed legislation in May 2016 establishing a rainy day fund as of July 1, 2017. That may help bolster its fiscal stability over time, provided that officials fill the fund as intended and replenish it after any drawdowns. Kansas’s B grade for transparency reflected its general adherence to best practices in the category, save for its lack of disclosure of replacement costs for depreciated infrastructure.

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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