State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

Oregon averaged top A grades for its handling of legacy costs and lack of budget maneuvers, two of the five budgetary categories evaluated by the Volcker Alliance for fiscal 2015 through 2017.

The legacy cost evaluation included Oregon’s treatment of public worker pensions and other postemployment benefits (OPEB), principally retiree health care. Unlike many states, Oregon made the full contribution that actuaries recommended for its OPEB plan in all three years. It also made its full actuarial pension contribution in 2016 and 2017 after missing it in 2015. With 92 percent of the assets needed to meet obligations, Oregon’s pension plan tied with Idaho for the sixth-highest funding ratio. Oregon’s A for budget maneuvers reflects a general absence of one-time revenue solutions to balance budgets.

Oregon fell short in budgeting forecasting and received an overall grade of C, partly because it did not use consensus revenue forecasts in the period studied. A best practice, such estimating incorporates input from various stakeholders, usually including at least the executive and legislative branches and  can help ensure that all involved in building a budget start with the same figure. While Oregon does provide multiyear revenue forecasts, it does not do the same for expenditures, disclosing only figures for the period covered by each biennial budget.

The state’s B in transparency reflected the absence of disclosure of deferred infrastructure replacement costs—the case in every state but Alaska and California. Its B in reserve funds showed general adherence to best practices save for its not tying fiscal reserves to revenue volatility.

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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