West Virginia

State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide

The Volcker Alliance’s budgetary grades for West Virginia were relatively consistent across the five categories studied from fiscal 2015 through 2017. The state received three-year averages of B in budget maneuvers, reserve funds, and transparency, and of C in legacy costs and budget forecasting.

In the budget maneuvers category, the state’s annual mark fell to C in 2017 from B the year before after West Virginia funded recurring expenditures with debt (as it did in 2015). It also used so-called scoop and toss measures in 2015.

“Scoop and toss” refers to the practice of repaying maturing bonds by selling new long-term debt, which generally extends the time for paying off the obligation. In 2015, West Virginia issued $134 million in refunding bonds to help repay debt maturing that year and to reduce future debt service. Thanks to lower interest rates, the state picked up $26 million in cash—just as individuals do in refinancing homes at lower rates. West Virginia veered from best practice in choosing to use that extra money over a few years rather than over the life of the new bonds.

West Virginia’s B for transparency reflects a lack of disclosure of deferred infrastructure replacement costs. Only California and Alaska provide meaningful information in that area.

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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