The State's Budget, Part I: When to Ask

March 03, 2016

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Timing is everything!

When does the state’s budget process start?

The truth is, much like your local county budget — or even your own personal budget — the state’s budget process never ends.

And even though the budget approved by the state legislature covers a two-year period, there is no timeout when it comes to planning and monitoring the state’s finances.

The elected officials and department heads in your county need to know when to have their documentation ready and when to be prepared to present their case for funding in the next budget. TAC can help you coordinate the documentation with issue briefs and a state budget summary. But knowing when to start making contacts and seeking out state funding for assistance with issues like indigent defense, mental health and other areas affecting county government is key. Budget Cycle

Know the State Budget Cycle

TAC has developed a state budget calendar that identifies key points in the budget cycle. Using this calendar, January of even-numbered years is the "Start Here" point in the cycle. Statewide goals are formulated and strategic planning begins then.

Counties will typically submit funding requests through a state agency, triggering a Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR). This should be done early in the cycle. Agencies determine their major funding priority lists between March and May, making these months critical points to make contacts and lay out requests.

State agencies adopt strategic plans and submit their initial budget requests in the summer of even-numbered years (Quadrant I). Budget hearings are conducted by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy (GOBPP) in August and September. Much like the county budget process, state agencies have an opportunity to explain and justify their appropriation requests. Budget and policy recommendations are then made in October, November and December (Quadrant II).

By January of odd-numbered years (Quadrant III), all of those requests must be compiled and presented to the Legislature. There, they go through several months of hearings followed by rewrites and amendments in the mark-up process by both budget committees (House Appropriations and Senate Finance). By the time it reaches the Legislature, the information presented has been a year in the making. Although legislators may revise the recommendations presented to them when the legislative session begins, you’ll be comfortably ahead of the process if county issues are already included in that initial proposal. Public testimony is taken during these hearings, but the opportunity to add or increase funding is fairly limited.

Once the Legislature adjourns, the proposed budget goes to the state comptroller to be certified and to the governor for approval (Quadrant IV).

Timing is Everything
Early input can be fundamental to getting the Legislature to address the needs of Texas counties. Advance contact can also allow time to supply any additional documentation necessary to substantiate your efforts. 

“Having your item listed as a top priority on the agency’s LAR would be extremely helpful but is not essential to funding,” said Paul Emerson, TAC’s State Financial Analyst.

Even a request to eliminate a statute or program may have a financial impact to the state as we saw last session when several county officials’ associations attempted to modify or even eliminate the Driver Responsibility Program. It’s crucial to be prepared and informed early to get the desired results. 

Know the ABC’s
You can avoid getting lost in the cycle by being familiar with the everyday language of the budget process.

  • GAA – General Appropriations Act: the state budget.
  • GOBPPGovernor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy - assists the governor in formulating and implementing state policy by coordinating with state agencies, the Legislature, and various constituents and stakeholder groups. Responsible for analyzing each piece of legislation and making recommendations to the governor.
  • HAC – House Appropriations Committee: Members of the Texas House appointed by the speaker of the House to consider detailed provisions of the GAA.
  • LAR – Legislative Appropriations Request: document prepared by each of more than 200 state agencies which details the amount of funding the agency is seeking from the Legislature.
  • LBBLegislative Budget Board: a permanent joint committee of the Texas Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations, completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation, and conducts evaluations and reviews to improve the efficiency and performance of state and local operations.
  • SFC – Senate Finance Committee: Members of the Texas Senate appointed by the lieutenant governor to consider detailed provisions of the GAA

Now that you know the language and the schedule behind the budget process, you’ll better understand when you begin receiving Budget Alerts from TAC a year before the legislature even convenes.

If you have questions, you can contact Paul Emerson, TAC state financial analyst, or Rhita Koches, TAC Core Legislative Group coordinator.