February 7, 2007

Budget Process

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

As your State Senator, one of my most important responsibilities is helping to put together the State Budget.  Because I am on the Joint Finance Committee, I play a huge role in determining what the state’s priorities will be in this budget.  It can be a long and complex process, and today I want to give each of you a glimpse of just how the State goes about spending nearly 56 Billion Dollars!

It all starts with the state agencies.  Every two years, in the fall, they submit their requests to the Governor.  These requests contain the amount they need to keep functioning, and any new programs they would like to create.  As you can imagine, there isn’t enough money to make everyone happy, so tough choices have to be made.

Once the Governor has these recommendations, he and his staff spend months sifting through the requests and calculating the overall costs.  The Governor determines which programs he wants to fund, and which ones we do not have the money for.  Hundreds of staff at the Department of Administration will pour over these requests and turn them into one cohesive state budget.

The Governor then delivers his bi-annual budget address on February 13, and releases his recommendations to the legislature, and the public.  That’s where the work really begins for legislators like myself.  We will spend hours reading the budget, and determining which parts we want to keep, and which parts we need to change.

The Joint Finance Committee will then begin meeting to discuss the budget, and make the necessary changes.  We will hold public hearings around the state, including in Milwaukee.  We will look for your input on what our priorities should be.  Once we have your input, we will get advice from the state agencies and other budget experts.  As you can already see, it is quite the process!

Once we have all the input and advice, we will sit down and make the necessary changes in the committee.  Hopefully, by early summer, we will have completed our work and will hand the budget off to the State Legislature. 

The Senate and the Assembly will then meet, often for 8 or 9 hours at a time and pass or fail various parts of the budget.  This can be a very intense process, and there is much disagreement and debate.  Eventually though, through much discussion and compromise, we will have a finished product.  The budget will be passed by both houses, and signed into law by the Governor.  The Governor also has the option of vetoing certain parts that he does not approve of.   

And then, a year and a half later, we will start the whole process all over again! 

The state budget process can be a grueling ordeal at times, but it is a great opportunity to shape the future of this state.  I am so proud to serve on the Joint Finance Committee, and I promise I will work extremely hard to create a budget that will truly help our community.