In one way budget advocacy is no different than legislative or regulatory advocacy. The concept is essentially the same – to educate, and ultimately influence, lawmakers or administrative officials and staff concerning specific budget appropriations in the main budget bill or provisions of budget trailer bills.
As other capital observers have noted, the California budget is a bill that the state must pass every single year. But it still is a bill. However, what we find is that many advocates do not have budget issues. There are a smaller number of advocates who find the budget to be intimidating with large numbers and tremendous implications. The state budget process on paper is similar to the legislative process, however, in practical terms, it can be quite different.
The full budget committees of the Senate and the Assembly act mostly as the final arbiter of their respective houses’ views when it comes to finalizing the actions of the Subcommittees of the two full budget committees. As you can imagine, legislative leaders can and do impact final budget decisions as well, but the budget bill is rarely modified on either floor of the Legislature. Instead, the five Senate Budget Subcommittees and the six Assembly Budget Subcommittees act as both the policy and the fiscal committees in determining budget actions and trailer bill actions.
Most of the work on the California state budget occurs at the sub-committee level. Prior to the sub-committee hearings, the full budget committee staff usually examine the major budget proposals and they prepare agendas that include an explanation of the governor’s budget proposals as well as the staff’s recommendation whether to accept the governor’s budget, reject the governor’s budget proposal, modify it in some way or hold it open – meaning take further consideration down the road perhaps after the governor’s May budget revision has been submitted. In instances where the governor’s budget proposals are “Held open,” this is to allow for further discussion. It should be noted that the minority party staff also prepare similar information for their members for consideration.
It’s important that any communications be done early in the budget process, particularly at the subcommittee level. Any differences between the actions of the Assembly and the Senate are usually handled by a two house conference committee. The Assembly and the Senate rotate the chairpersonship of the conference committee each year. This process is supposed to address the differences between the Assembly’s and Senate’s versions of the budget.
Although the public aspect of budget process is usually just about five months in length, please note that the development of the state budget actually begins shortly after the prior year’s budget takes effect. California’s fiscal year begins on July 1 of each year, which means, of course, that the state’s fiscal year ends the following June 30th. By way of comparison, the Federal Government’s fiscal year runs October 1 through September the 30th.
You can find a complete transcript of today’s podcast here.