Oklahoma Budget Breakdown: Explaining subcommittees
In the weeks leading up to the legislative session, the spotlight is on budget hearings, so this week, I’d like to focus on the appropriations process, including the work of the appropriations subcommittees.
There are six appropriations subcommittees in the Senate. Those include Education; General Government and Transportation; Health and Human Services; Natural Resources and Regulatory Services; Public Safety and Judiciary; and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies.
Subcommittee members have the responsibility of analyzing agency budget requests and reviewing agency program performance measures. They answer questions about agency programs for constituents and are responsible for negotiating terms of the appropriation and budget limit bills. I communicate with our subcommittee chairs throughout the interim, but during the session, I hold weekly meetings with them to discuss the budget, agency requests, and negotiations between our chairs and their house counterparts.
Oct. 1 is the deadline for agencies to submit their budget request to the governor and the Legislature, although this year, the deadline was extended to Nov. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In any given year, the requests for funding typically exceed the resources available to appropriate, but unlike the federal government, Oklahoma’s constitution requires our Legislature to write and pass a balanced budget. Additionally, we must prioritize those resources to ensure we are funding the core services our citizens depend on. The work of our subcommittee chairs and their members is essential to those efforts.
In January our appropriations subcommittees begin their analysis of agency program performance measures and begin filing related reports. No appropriations can be made to an agency until these reports have been filed. Those hearings are currently underway in the Senate. The schedule for upcoming meetings and links to live video can be viewed at https://oksenate.gov/committees#l-meeting-notices. These hearings give agencies an opportunity to explain how their appropriations for the current budget year are being utilized and to discuss their budget requests for the coming fiscal year.
The governor submits his budget recommendations to the Legislature on the first day of session, which will be Feb. 1 this year. Later in the month, the Board of Equalization meets for certification of revenues. While the board makes a preliminary certification in late December, it is the February estimate the Legislature is constitutionally required to follow, unless a bill is approved by both chambers and signed by the governor to increase or decrease revenue.
From February through April supplemental appropriations are considered for the current fiscal year. Subcommittees hold budget hearings for the upcoming fiscal year and vote on substantive bills with fiscal impacts. This is the best time during the session to talk to legislators about budget issues.
From late April to May the subcommittees receive their budget allocation and convene the General Conference Committee on Appropriations (GCCA). At this point, the Senate and House Appropriation Subcommittees have decided most of what they want to fund, and it is time to work out their differences.
By May the Legislature begins filing appropriation bills. During session, the governor has five days to sign or veto a bill or it becomes law without his signature. If the bill is passed during the last week of session, the governor has 15 days to sign it or it becomes a pocket veto. Under the constitution, the legislative session must end no later than 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May.
All our committee and subcommittee meetings, as well as floor sessions, are livestreamed and archived on our official website at www.oksenate.gov. You can also view or download complete texts of bills, agendas and more. In addition, each year we publish a Fast Facts reference guide with convenient facts, figures and graphs about Oklahoma’s state budget as well as information on state government programs, taxes, demographics and state rankings. It’s available on our website at https://oksenate.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Fast%20Facts%20Final.pdf.
If you have any questions about the budget or the appropriations process, I invite you to contact me at 405-521-5588 or email Roger.Thompson@oksenate.gov. Thank you.