State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

The Volcker Alliance’s assessment of Oklahoma’s budget practices from fiscal 2015 through 2017 presents a mixed picture. The state won straight A’s for its handling of legacy costs, a category including public worker pensions and postretirement health care. Yet its marks for transparency deteriorated over the three years studied, falling from a C in 2015 and 2016 to D, the second-lowest grade possible, by 2017.

In contrast, the state improved in budget forecasting, where its grade rose from C in 2015 to B in 2016 and A in 2017. A significant factor in the state’s gain in that area was its decision to adopt a consensus forecasting method in 2016. The approach is intended to ensure that multiple contributors determine a single revenue number on which to build a budget, allowing legislators to focus more time on spending decisions. Oklahoma has begun including tax commission economists and outside research entities in the process—a significant step forward.

Oklahoma’s C average in transparency for the period studied reflects the limited amount of information provided on the Office of Management and Enterprise Services website. The state does not disclose replacement costs for depreciated infrastructure in budget documents, and—departing from its practice in 2015 and 2016—it did not make a tax expenditure budget available in fiscal 2017.

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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