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.

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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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