Katherine Barrett

Katherine Barrett is a principal at Barrett and Greene, Inc., and a correspondent and columnist for Governing magazine. Along with Richard Greene, she is the founding author of the B&G Report, and a consultant to the Pew Center on the States.

Recent Articles

State Fiscal Gimmicks: A Budgetary Balancing Act

Phony budget accounting defers the day of reckoning -- but raises costs.

When state legislators and governors talk about the care with which they keep their states fiscally sound, they frequently refer to the mandate that they pass a balanced budget- -- a requirement in all states except Vermont. Every dollar spent is presumably balanced against a dollar coming in. This sounds pretty good in theory. Who could get into fiscal troubles with a system like that? Almost everybody, it turns out. When revenues fall, budgets are often balanced with gimmicks that can cost states, localities, and taxpayers more money in the long run. To be sure, the day the budget passes, projected revenues equal anticipated expenses. But the gimmicks only defer the day of reckoning. Within weeks or months, revenues come in low, expenses come in high, and it's time to turn to further fiscal magic to get through the year. Consider Arizona. That state has decided to sell a passel of state buildings and then lease them back so the state can continue to use them. That could raise around...