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State Revenue Forecasts and Political Acceptance: The Value of Consensus Forecasting in the Budget Process

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Abstract

Concerns about political biases in state revenue forecasts, as well as insufficient evidence that complex forecasts outperform naive algorithms, have resulted in a nearly universal call for depoliticization of forecasting. This article discusses revenue forecasting in the broader context of the political budget process and highlights the importance of a forecast that is politically accepted—forecast accuracy is irrelevant if the budget process does not respect the forecast as a resource constraint. The authors provide a case illustration in Indiana by showing how the politicized process contributed to forecast acceptance in the state budget over several decades. They also present a counterfactual history of forecast errors that would have been produced by naive algorithms. In addition to showing that the Indiana process would have outperformed the naive approaches, the authors demonstrate that the path of naive forecast errors during recessions would be easily ignored by political actors.

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