An Urgent Need for Transparency: States Must Prioritize Timely Financial Reporting

April 8, 2024

What do the following ten states have in common? None of them have released their 2023 financial reports despite being well into 2024!

Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

The fiscal year ended on June 30th for all of these states. This means they have had over 270 days to complete these reports. Industry standards give corporations 180 days after fiscal year end to file their annual comprehensive financal reports. Moreover, this delay in financial reporting directly contradicts the standards set forth by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which emphasizes the importance of issuing financial reports soon after the events they cover. As Sheila Weinberg, Founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting, notes, "Timeliness alone does not make information useful, but the passage of time usually diminishes the usefulness that the information otherwise would have had." Indeed, the longer states delay the release of their financial reports, the less impactful and relevant that information becomes.

The increasing trend of delayed filings is worrisome because these states have already made budgetary decisions for the next fiscal year without access to this crucial information.

Transparency is paramount in state governance. Citizens rely on clear and comprehensive financial reporting to understand how their tax dollars are utilized and hold elected officials accountable. 

This lapse in transparency is deeply troubling. Without access to these essential reports, policymakers and taxpayers alike operate in the dark, unable to fully grasp their states' financial health or make informed decisions about budget allocations. 

The failure to release these reports in a timely manner not only undermines the principles of accountability and transparency but also jeopardizes the fiscal stability of states. Budgets crafted without the benefit of comprehensive financial data are akin to navigating treacherous waters blindfolded. How can responsible fiscal decisions be made when crucial information is withheld or delayed?

The consequences of this delay extend beyond mere inconvenience. Without a clear understanding of their states' financial standing, taxpayers may face unexpected tax hikes, service cuts, or other austerity measures down the line. Furthermore, the lack of transparency breeds mistrust between citizens and their government, eroding the very foundation of democracy.

States must prioritize the timely release of their comprehensive financial reports. Elected officials must recognize their responsibility to provide transparent and accountable governance to the people they serve. By adhering to established financial reporting standards and promptly releasing these crucial documents, states can foster greater trust, enable informed decision-making, and ensure the long-term fiscal health of their communities.

In conclusion, the failure of any state to release their annual comprehensive financial reports late is unacceptable. State officials must act swiftly to rectify this situation, prioritizing the timely release of financial information to empower citizens and safeguard their states' fiscal well-being. Because timeliness and transparency are essential pillars of effective governance, and their absence only undermines public trust and impedes the democratic process.

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