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.

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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