Transparency in state budgets

September 29, 2011

Transparency in state budgets

A Search for Best Practices


A major impediment to understanding how much trouble state governments are in is a lack of transparency in the way their budgets are presented. Greater budget transparency would facilitate more informed policymaking. Research by the Fiscal Futures Project shows that defining and measuring budget transparency is a necessary first step toward achieving it.

In this report, IGPA experts examine existing studies of state budget transparency by scholars, public administration experts and public-interest groups. They also develop four new indicators of budget transparency based on the shares of the total budget hidden in special funds as opposed to the more commonly reported General Funds.

The report includes detailed 50-state tables with the different transparency measures studied and created (see below). "As a bonus for budget watchers in individual states, we have created a Budget Transparency Profile for each state that pictures transparency scores from our research and other groups in a single page," said Richard Dye, an author of the report. Dye goes on to say that "budget watchers in Illinois will not be surprised that the confusing budget reporting practices in our state rank us 47th worst and 49th worst in transparency by two of the IGPA measures."


(.PDF 2.75 MB)

Research Area: Fiscal and Economic Policy

Policy Initiative: none