A national policy publication that analyzes state budget policies has ranked Rhode Island No. 7 in the country for the quality of its state budget-setting process.
State Policy Reports, a Federal Funds Information for States publication, ranked all 50 states’ budget processes based on widely accepted budget practices, using information reported by the National Association of State Budget Officers.
“I’m very proud that our state has been recognized for our efforts to make the state budget transparent, responsible and understandable. While the state budget will always be extremely complicated, the House and Senate Finance Committees and Fiscal Staffs do a tremendous amount of work maintaining openness though countless hours of hearings every year and hundreds upon hundreds of pages of public documents and summaries that are available online. Through our constitution and our state laws and practices, we’ve established a process that has now been independently recognized as one of the best in the country, and that recognition should strengthen Rhode Islanders’ confidence in their state government,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), whose committee is responsible for vetting the state budget each year.
The publication gave each state a score based on the strength of its requirements for balanced budgets, with higher scores for constitutional mandates; its governor’s authority to constrain spending, including item-veto authority and the ability not to spend appropriated funds; the size of its reserves; and the extent to which its budget documents are understandable and reveal the impacts of current decisions on future budgets, pension liabilities, coverage of all state money, and disclosure of why and on what money is being spent.
Rhode Island’s score was 78 out of a possible 100. The highest score of 86 went to Michigan, and the next-closest New England state was Maine, which ranked 20th with a score of 71.5.
State Policy Reports gave Rhode Island the maximum points for its balanced budget requirement, for its governor’s ability to reduce spending and for its maintenance of healthy reserves. It also ranked Rhode Island first in the nation on its efforts to make its budget documents understandable to elected officials and to the public. In that category, the publication considered whether the states provide such things as program descriptions, caseloads, the number of state employees, indicators of performance or results expected from spending money and a separate presentation of capital outlays, and gave points for including the state’s annual required contribution to its pension system into the budget document, for including forecasts for spending in future years, for appropriating all non-federal funds and for putting a legislative check on a governor’s ability to spend unanticipated funding.
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