Alabama scored a 71.2 in the State Budget Process, a number that ranked it 33rd in the country in the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation.
The state got high marks for having a relatively open budgeting process while the budget is being debated. The governor’s recommended budget is posted on the Executive Budget Office website, along with information about the state’s debts and projected revenues. Budget bills being debated by the Legislature are publicly available, and information about changes to those bills is posted to the Legislative Fiscal Office’s website during the process. The budgets also are discussed in open committee meetings.
State departments also post monthly reports to the Open Alabama website, including reports on spending, revenues and cash balances. The public and any interested state officials can access that information.
The state’s score took a hit because Alabama has no legislative committee that oversees spending during the budget year.
A bill was proposed but died in the Alabama Legislature’s regular session in 2015 that would have created a Joint Legislative Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability to provide continuous oversight of state government operations, including reviewing spending of state agencies and modifying spending plans during the year. The bill came under criticism as a vehicle to allow a potentially partisan committee to have operational oversight of funds spent by such departments as the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. But supporters said such a committee was needed to make state spending more transparent. For instance, state departments now can shift money from a project the Legislature voted to fund to a different project without notice or approval.
Alabama also lost points because the state does not publish a series of budget documents such as a non-technical citizens’ budget and regular reports on projected or year-to-date income and spending.