State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Ohio failed to get a single A in any of the five categories evaluated by the Volcker Alliance for fiscal 2015 through 2017. It did receive overall grades of B in two categories, however. One was transparency, because the state maintains a consolidated budget website, provides debt tables, and discloses tax expenditures. Its Tax Expenditure Report includes information about revenues forgone from exemptions, deductions, and credits, mostly to attract or retain corporations.
Ohio also earned a B average in budget maneuvers by largely avoiding moves to give the appearance of a balanced budget in a current year at the risk of adding pressure in future years. The state did not defer recurring expenditures in any of the three years covered, nor did it fund recurring expenditures with debt, or use asset sales or up-front revenues. Ohio’s weakness in the category was the periodic shifting of monies into the general fund from purpose-specific funds. In fiscal 2016, the state made a total of $286,624,000 in transfers from such sources as the Workers’ Compensation fund, the Lottery Commission, Unemployment Compensation fund, and Buckeye Tobacco Settlement Financing Authority revenue bonds.
The state’s lowest grade was in budget forecasting, where it posted D’s for all three years. Key liabilities included a lack of multiyear revenue and expenditure forecasts.
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 2015 through 2017. 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 eleven 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.