Having briefings and keeping closer track of what is going on makes politicians better decision-makers, Pattison says. "It is not sexy or huge, but briefings make for a smoother process."
And understanding the basics will also help officials to know how to better work with, and not override, financial experts when things do get too complex.
"I've recently sat through briefings on the government accounting standards for pensions," Pattison says. "The standards are highly technical. I wouldn't expect anyone outside of the finance side to understand them. (What government officials need to know) is more of the basics, to just be aware of the processes."
Marlowe, of the University of Washington, can easily give examples where better financial literacy may have prevented municipal or state problems, but he says they are the exception.
"Despite the cynical things we have been saying, a key point to keep in mind is that fundamentally, most local governments and most state governments are generally well run," Marlowe says. "They get the job done. They deliver the services on time. They pick up the trash. They educate the kids. They do whatever it is they are supposed to do. Fundamentally, most governments are doing more with less and are generally run by competent people who are trying to do the right thing."
Financial literacy training: The State Budget
The National Association of State Budget Officers produced a series of "State Budget Basics Videos" to help state officers become more financially literate. This is "Part 1: The State Budget Process" that provides concepts and information on the process of building and approving a state budget.