Every year the legislature has to create a budget for the next year. The process starts with revenue consensus hearings, where the House and Senate come to agreement on the anticipated revenue for the coming year, i.e. how much the total budget can be. The Governor submits their budget which shows their program and funding priorities, hearings are held on the Governor’s budget recommendations. Then the legislature develops their budget.
STATE BUDGET TERMS
Ways and Means Committees: The House and Senate each have their own Ways and Means Committees that oversee all legislation affecting the finances of the Commonwealth, for each chamber. The House and Senate Ways and Means Committees and their staff, prepare each chamber’s budget proposal, which serves as the basis for each chamber’s budget decisions. The House goes first in all budget matters.
Line item: A line item is an allocation of specific dollars to be spent on a particular program, service, office, or initiative. Line items are identified by a particular account number (for example, #1234-1234) and they include a description of how the money should be spent.
Earmark: An earmark is a designation of dollars, usually within a line item, for a particular purpose. Earmarks are usually filed on behalf of very local initiatives, unique to particular House or Senate Districts.
Amendments: During the budget debate on the floor of the House, legislators can file amendments, or changes to the proposed budget. An amendment might add or subtract money from a line item, add language to or entirely strike out a line item, or add, modify, or delete an outside section which appears at the end of the budget. Amendments can sometimes reflect bills which have been filed to advance policy initiatives.
Consolidated amendment: To expedite the budget process in the House, amendments are often bundled together by issue area (for e.g. “housing” or “education” or “the environment”), then voted on in a single consolidated amendment on the floor. One budget can have five to six consolidated amendments.
348 Meetings: In the House, 348 meetings are subject-specific pitches for budget amendments. These “pitches” are made by issue area by individual Representatives to the House Chair of Ways and Means, their staff, and relevant committee staff.
Conference committee: After the House and Senate pass their separate versions of the state budget, each chamber appoints three members to a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals and come up with one agreed upon identical budget. The Conference Committee reports the final compromise (identical) bill to the House and Senate for a final vote of passage in each branch.
Veto/Line item veto: When disagreements arise between the Governor and the Legislature about components of the budget, the Governor can use a line item veto to strike out particular budget elements with which he disagrees, rather than vetoing the entire budget. The Governor has ten days to decide to accept the budget as is or to veto sections.
Override: If the Governor vetoes specific line items, the House and the Senate (House goes first) each can vote to override the veto. In order to override, each body needs to pass the override by a 2/3 (not 51%) vote.