Why is the budget process important?
Understanding the appropriations process is important because each bill needs appropriate funding. Utah’s budget, determined by the EAC, includes the funding that is to fund the bills being passed during the session. With more funding, programs can serve more people and in more comprehensive ways.
Additionally, legislators can submit appropriation requests (separate from bills and resolutions). Requests for Appropriations (RFAs) are a mechanism for legislators to request funding for a specific agency to carry out a program, no policies or laws are actually changed. This can be a powerful way to make changes in our state! Reach out to a legislator if you have ideas on how to use this as a policy tool.
What is the Budget Process?
- Governor’s Budget
In September, departments add what they heard from the public (YOU) to their own suggestions and send the list of prioritized recommendations to the governor. After reviewing priorities from all the departments, the governor releases his budget. While legislators say they don’t pay much attention to it, it’s important for a couple of reasons: 1) departments are only allowed to publicly support what’s in the governor’s budget and 2) the governor and the legislature have to agree on a budget, which means they MUST negotiate.
- Legislative Budget
There are various appropriations committees that usually meet in the morning during the first three weeks of the session. Their first week or so is usually spent reviewing last year’s budget and discussing anything members might want to change this year. During the second and third week, they talk about new things they might want to this year’s budget. This portion is influenced by public comment. Toward the end of the third week, committee members take everything they’ve heard and vote to rank their priorities. Each committee then sends its priority list to the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC).
EAC is made up of the Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. Members go through a similar process of combining recommendations from all the appropriations committees and ranking them, except there are no presentations or public comment. After negotiating with the governor, EAC votes on its list, which basically becomes Utah’s budget.
How do I get involved with the Appropriations process?
Some of the appropriations committees that hear items of interest to the disability community include public education, executive offices and criminal justice, and social services. To speak in public education or executive offices and criminal justice, you just need to reach out to the committee chair or attend the meeting on the day the item you’re interested in is on the agenda. It’s similar in social services, except you have to sign-up the day before. Plan on speaking for two minutes or less. You can also work with legislatures to submit appropriations requests.