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.
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.