Vermont earns big jump in financial transparency score

By Kim Jarrett | The Center Square

Vermont is one of only 22 states that scored above 80 on a scale of 100 in Truth in Accounting’s (TIA) latest report on financial transparency.

TIA uses eight criteria to measure states’ financial transparency and releases a report annually. This year’s report is based on data from fiscal year 2020.

Vermont scored 82 out of 100 points and received the maximum points allowed for a clean, independent audit. Nine out of 10 were awarded for the state’s off-balance sheet liabilities, but it received only one out of five points for the information being easily found on its website.

The state’s pension data timing mirrored issues happening in other states, according to the TIA report. Vermont received two out of 10 points in the category that measures the timing of pension liability reports compared to the state’s annual report.

“Maryland is the only state that accurately reported its 2020 pension numbers; all of the other pension figures were marred by different valuation dates or outdated numbers,” according to a news release from the organization. “These factors, combined with the shortcomings mentioned above, mean that all 50 states were unable to accurately report their true financial condition.”

States struggled this year with their audits due to challenges with pandemic relief funding and unemployment insurance.

“We have seen reporting efforts hampered in the past by conflicts of interest, out-of-date information, and tardy publication,” said TIA founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic further hindered state governments’ ability to be transparent.”

Vermont received a score of 56 last year from TIA. Only 25 out of 50 points were received in the category auditor’s opinion category in 2020.

The improvement is opposite to what has happened in the 50 states overall, as the scores have worsened, according to TIA. Thirty-seven states received clean audit reports, which is 10 fewer than last year. None of the 50 states published its financial data within 100 days of the end of their fiscal year, according to the organization.

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