Executive Branch has Advantage in Budget Timing (Part 1)

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Having spent sixteen years in Minnesota state government, eight years as a legislative staffer and eight years in the Executive Branch, I have come to the conclusion that the Executive Branch has a decided advantage over the Legislature in the timing of its budget preparation. Why? Simply put, the Executive Branch has six months to prepare its budget, while the House and Senate have much less time.

While the 2012 Legislative Session was still in the rear-view mirror of most of us, State Budget Director Margaret Kelly of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) quietly issued the budget instructions for the 2014-2015 biennial budget cycle on July 11, 2012. These instructions, which can be found at http://www.beta.mmb.state.mn.us/op-instructions, provide specific information and deadlines for each agency. Here is the list of deadlines: 

Activity

Date(s)

Part A: Narrative Instructions and Templates Available

July 11

Narrative Training, SharePoint and BPAS Training

July and August

Part B: Preparing Fiscal Information Instructions Available

Late July

Agency Narratives Due to MMB

August 24

Part C: Agency Budget Proposal Instructions Available

Late August

Agency Narratives Published to MMB Website

Early October

Base Budget Data Due to MMB

October 15

Non-Executive Branch, Constitutional Officers, Small Agency Proposals Due

October 15

Executive Branch Agency Budget Proposals due to MMB

October TBD in Part C

Base Budget Data Submitted to Legislature

November 30

Governor’s Decision Making

November/December

Governor’s Budget Submitted to Legislature

January 22, 2013

With this schedule, the Executive Branch has developed a time-honored, orderly budget development process in which budget recommendations are discussed, contemplated, decided, and perfected.

Now contrast this with the Legislative time schedule.

The Legislature will receive the Governor’s recommendations on January 22, 2013 and immediately begin hearings. Because of the number of committees in the House and Senate, each committee meets only a handful of hours each week so hearings will extend a couple of months. During this time, the Legislature not only considers the Governor’s budget proposal but other proposals from stakeholders as well.

At the end of February, MMB issues the February Forecast which always has the potential to significantly change revenues and expenditures. The Governor usually issues revised budget recommendations by mid-March. At this point, the Legislature receives the final set of Governor’s recommendations, a full eight months after the first budget instructions from MMB. In the next five weeks, until roughly the third week in April, the Legislature usually engages in the process of passing its budget.

While legislators are jockeying back and forth over line-items and budget language, the Executive Branch has the luxury of trying to influence the process. The Governor, key staff, and Commissioners will begin the process of strategizing for end-game scenarios to utilize in budget negotiations with Legislative Leaders.

For me personally, the process always seemed rushed when I worked at the Legislature. While I was in the Governor’s Office and the MMB Commissioner, I felt like I had more control over the timing of my work product. Still, there are advantages the Legislature has over the Governor in this process. I will discuss these advantages in a future blog post.