State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Maine was one of fifteen states that didn’t earn a single A in any of the five budgetary categories evaluated by the Volcker Alliance for fiscal 2015 through 2017. The state’s lowest average mark of C was in legacy costs, which include public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), principally retiree health care.

The state was marked down in that category for its failure to make actuarially recommended contributions for OPEB, though it provided full actuarial funding for pensions. In 2016, for example, Maine contributed about 85 percent of actuarially required OPEB contributions for general employees, 68 percent for teachers, and 40 percent for first responders.

Maine got a three-year average of B in budget maneuvers by largely avoiding one-time actions to achieve balance in 2016 and 2017. The B grade in each of those years marked an improvement from the C in 2015, when the state deferred expenditures related to MaineCare, its Medicaid program, to yield one-time savings.

In budget forecasting, Maine’s notable shortcoming was the absence of multiyear expenditure forecasts. Although the state has a requirement to compile four-year revenue and expenditure forecasts for the general and highway funds, the governor’s budget document discloses only two years of expenditure forecasts.

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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