Budget Work Starts as Legislative Process Continues / by Joe Furia

Greg Ensell, Vice President of Government Relations

We are now at the 60th day of legislative session. Both chambers have been working hard at moving bills through the legislative process in advance of the committee deadline. This means that Senate and House committees only have two regularly scheduled meetings to hear some or all 206 House and 130 Senate. However, the real news is that work has begun on crafting the state’s FY2019 budget.

This week, Senate President Yarbrough and JLBC director Richard Stavneak began briefing small groups of majority caucus members about the differences between the Governor’s proposal and JLBC baseline budget. The meetings were reportedly for information only and focused on revenue estimates.

In the House, a group of Republican legislators called the “T5” group began meeting to discuss the budget. The group is comprised of Representatives Livingston, Leach, Bowers, Cobb, and Norgaard. They are expected to work long hours this week creating a rough budget outline. Many expect “T5” to begin meeting with rank-and-file member of the House GOP caucus early next week.

Exactly when and how the budget will be introduced and passed is the subject of great speculation amongst Capitol railbirds. The only requirement is that a budget be adopted on or before July 1st. What happens between now and then is not known but will likely include days or weeks of silence followed by a few frenzied days of intense lobbying and legislative action.

Passing a budget is the most important, and almost without exception the hardest, annual legislative task. Traditionally, budgets are negotiated behind closed doors through a process of small group meetings: first, between the leadership of both majority caucus and their members; and then between the President, the Speaker and the Governor’s office.

Once an agreement has been reached, the budget will be introduced and rapidly moved through committees and floor votes. The budget itself is not one bill. Rather, it’s a series of ten or more bills with one “feed bill” that contains appropriations for each agency and numerous budget reconciliation bills (BRBs) which contain the statutory changes and session law required for implementation.