by Mike Neppl, NYLA Director of Government Relations & Advocacy
With off-session state budget season underway, I thought it would be helpful to provide an overview of the process. Though somewhat esoteric, the budget process is guided by the state constitution, state statutes, state Division of Budget policies, and entrenched practices in each house of the legislature.
The FY2017-18 New York State Budget season officially kicked off on October 4th when the Director of the Division of Budget (DOB) issued the annual “call letter” to state agency heads. This year’s call letter directs state agencies to submit zero-growth budgets, as the Governor continues the effort to limit growth in overall state spending to 2%. Notably, School Aid and Education funding is excluded from this requirement, as they are subject to different caps due to the receipt of federal funds. State agencies, including the State Education Department, must submit their proposed budget requests by October 18th.
As in recent years, the Governor is likely to simultaneously present the State of the State & Executive Budget. The state constitution requires the Governor submit the Executive Budget by the second Tuesday following the first day of the legislative session (though in years following gubernatorial elections the budget must be submitted by February 1st). Once the budget and corresponding appropriations, revenue and budget bills are received by the legislature, each house prepares summaries of proposed budget actions and begins to hold joint public hearings. NYLA is typically invited to present testimony on the funding needs of the library community (see NYLA’s 2016 testimony here) in late January/early February. The Governor may submit amendments to the Executive Budget within thirty days of introduction, though administrations have typically submitted amendments at both the twenty-one and thirty day marks.
By the beginning of March, the involved parties have agreed upon a revenue forecast and each house comes together in conference committees to work out spending and revenue recommendations. These recommendations are enacted as amended appropriations bills. The Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly then enter “three-way” negotiations. The Governor must either approve the amended portions of the bills or use his line-item veto power to strike them. Adopted language originally submitted by the Governor is enacted with no further action required.
The state budget process presents unique political, policy, and economic challenges each year, but the upcoming year will be particularly difficult to navigate. Much will depend on the outcome of the November elections, where every seat in the state Senate and Assembly is up for election. Further, recent reports from the Office of the State Comptroller and DOB have warned of slowing revenues from personal income tax receipts. NYLA will continue to meet these challenges head-on; our continued success will no doubt require an even greater effort from library advocates in the upcoming year.