State Budget Practice Report Cards and Budget Resource Guide
Wyoming’s most marked improvement over fiscal 2015 through 2017, the three years covered by the Volcker Alliance evaluation of budgetary practices, was in its handling of reserve funds. Its grade in the area rose to a B in 2017 from D, the second-lowest mark, in 2015 and 2016.
The higher grade was based on a new policy for replenishing the state’s rainy day fund. Since 1975, the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund has been stocked with dollars from severance taxes on production of coal, natural gas, oil, and other natural resources. Distinct from the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Fund, the state’s main rainy day fund, the trust fund could not be accessed for emergencies. Beginning in fiscal 2017, state law requires that a share of the trust’s earnings be deposited into the rainy day fund.
Wyoming’s worst performance by far was in legacy costs, where it posted straight D-minuses, the lowest possible grade. The marks were based on its failure to fund either its pension plans or postretirement employee health benefits at a level that matched actuaries’ recommendations. Although the state did make statutory pension contributions, the amounts were less than those called for by plan actuaries.
Wyoming also missed top grades in transparency, where it garnered a C average. The state did not disclose the cost of tax expenditures, except for limited information on some sales tax exemptions. In addition, like forty-seven other states, Wyoming did not provide information on deferred infrastructure replacement costs.
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.