LegiSplaining: After the Base Budget

davidwicaiBlog, Legislature

Following the passage of the base budget, legislators begin considering the remaining money in the budget. Although only a small part of the overall $17 billion budget, the debates surrounding that money will be much more intense.

This year, the remaining money for fiscal year 2019 is close to $750 million. That includes new revenues, although those numbers are lower than expected when the session started.

To decide how to budget that remaining money, appropriations subcommittees will review two different types of requests. They will then list those requests in order of priority, which will (generally) carry a lot of influence with the leaders on Executive Appropriations. Those will be finished by approximately the fourth week of the session.

Building Blocks: These requests come from state agencies and reflect what the Governor recommended in his budget.

Request for Appropriations: These often fall outside of the Governor’s budget, sponsored instead by legislators. If approved, these will typically “pass through” a state agency’s budget to an organization.

While it sounds simple – subcommittees do the heavy lifting and makes recommendations, then leaders approve – the remaining six weeks or so will be anything but easy. Throughout the process, political gamesmanship plays a starring role.

The appropriations subcommittees, even with their public votes and more balanced memberships, can still play politics on their priorities. Surprisingly, subcommittees will often seem to defy leadership by placing requests from Republican leaders lower on the list. But they do this because they know those will likely get funded no matter what, so placing other requests higher can result in both requests getting funded.

The Executive Appropriations Committee, which is made up of House and Senate leaders from both parties, will consider each subcommittees priority as part of their debates. But they will also consider those of the Governor’s office and their own leadership priorities. Adding to the confusion is that most of the Executive Appropriations decisions happen behind closed doors, whether in party caucus meetings or private leadership meetings.

Adding to the confusion are two things that future LegiSplaining articles will tackle. One is updated revenue forecasts, which come out in the middle of February. The other are the supplemental appropriations decided at the very end of the session.