The number one responsibility of the House is to appropriate and pass a balanced budget for the state. In fact, Missouri’s constitution includes a balanced budget amendment, whose purpose is to prevent the State of Missouri from deficit spending. This means that the State cannot pass a budget that will involve spending more revenue than is actually available.
One of the responsibilities of the governor is to manage expenditures and make sure that state bills are paid. Toward the end the of the year, before the Session begins in January, the governor’s budget director and the House and Senate budget chairs come together to establish a consensus revenue estimate. This estimate serves as a starting point for the budget by determining approximately how much revenue will be coming in to the state.
Generally around the 20th of January, the governor presents his proposed budget to a joint session of Missouri’s General Assembly in his State-of-the-State Address. The House Budget Chairman then files the thirteen appropriations bills, using the governor’s recommendations. Next, these bills are assigned to various committees that hold hearings. The committees can increase or decrease individual items in any bill by a majority vote of the committee. The appropriations bills are then sent to the full House Budget Committee where hearings are held again on individual line items, preparing the bills to come to the floor for their first-round approval.
After having been approved this past week, the thirteen bills are now on their way to the Senate, where they will be assigned to the their appropriations committees. Hearings will be held and individual items may be increased or decreased before being passed by the majority of that committee. At this point, these thirteen appropriations bills will be sent to the full Senate where they are debated again. If the Senate makes a change to any of the bills that were passed out by the House, those bills are then assigned to a conference committee, consisting of an equal number of House and Senate members. After reaching an agreement at the conference committee, the whole package is then sent back to the House, where a final version must be passed.
Once the House has passed a bill, it returns to the Senate for their approval. After passing through the House and Senate process, all thirteen bills will finally find their way to the governor’s desk. He can accept the amount of funding in each bill, sign them and make them law, or he can veto them. The governor has line item veto power, as well as the ability to withhold any appropriated funds.
With the recent passage of Amendment #10, there are new restrictions and limitations placed on the governor’s ability to withhold funds already appropriated. This is why the House has moved more quickly this year to approve the budget (almost three weeks ahead of schedule) as compared to budgets of previous years. The reasoning is that by finishing the budgeting process earlier and addressing the governor’s decisions on any line item vetoes while lawmakers are in session, the Assembly will have time to address and override the vetoes at that time, instead of waiting for the regular September Veto Session to deal with them. Dealing with budget issues while we are in Session can prevent another summer of “discontent and uncertainty” for various state agencies and school districts waiting for their funding.
After completing the process, the budget will go into effect on July 1, 2016. As we move forward with the overall budgeting process, I will continue to keep you informed about how your tax dollars are being spent in Missouri.