State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

While Mississippi is the poorest US state in terms of per capita personal income, it nonetheless received average grades of A or B for fiscal 2015 through 2017 in all but one of the five budgetary categories the Volcker Alliance assessed.

Mississippi’s one A average was in budget maneuvers, where for the most part it adhered to best practices of matching current expenditures with current revenues. The state’s B average in legacy costs, including pensions and post-retirement public employee health care, contrasts with lower scores for some neighboring states: Both Alabama and Louisiana got a D, and Arkansas and Georgia earned a C.

In budget forecasting, one of the key building blocks of sound long-term fiscal policy, Mississippi was awarded only a C. That grade reflects the state’s lack of official, detailed multiyear revenue and expenditure forecasts. Its B in reserve funds was the result of Mississippi’s not considering revenue volatility when determining how much to deposit or maintain in the Working Cash Stabilization Fund. Its transparency grade of B reflected a failure to disclose deferred infrastructure replacement costs.

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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