McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

The state budget process on paper is relatively similar to the legislative process itself. However, it can certainly be different in a number of practical terms. Some of those practical differences manifest themselves in the component parts of the budget and the budget timeline.

First, what are the parts of the budget? The main parts are the budget bill, the budget bill junior, trailer bills, and supplemental reports. The main budget bill contains all the appropriations – and is the only piece of legislation allowed to contain multiple appropriations – and relevant budget bill language (BBL).

The budget bill junior is the bill that amends the main budget bill and is enacted after the budget bill. Trailer bills make the necessary statutory changes to implement the provisions of the budget bill. Supplemental reports are separate reports by the Legislature that request specific actions from state agencies and departments. They are not in bill form and do not carry the force of law.

There are three major dates to keep in mind regarding the budget. The first is January 10, which is when California’s Constitution requires the Governor to propose the budget to the Legislature. The second constitutional deadline is June 15, which is the deadline for the Legislature to pass the budget. The third important date is July 1, which is the date of the start of California’s fiscal year. Some would argue that there should be a fourth date, the date when the Governor announces the May revise to the budget. That generally falls around May 15 after April tax receipts are known.

There are also distinct phases to the budget process, as laid out by Chris Woods who is the budget advisor to California’s Senate President Pro Tem. Those are:

  • Phase 1. The Study Phase. It runs from November to February.
  • Phase 2. Public Participation and Listening. March though mid-May.
  • Phase 3. Action Phase. Mid-May to the end of May.
  • Phase 4. Negotiation Phase. Early June, essential June 1-10.
  • Phase 5. Voting and Signing. Late June.
  • Phase 6. Follow-up and Cleanup. July 1 until the end of session.

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