- Report Published -
|Commonwealth's Planning and Budgeting Process|
|Commission on the Commonwealth's Planning and Budgeting Process|
|SJR 94 (Regular Session, 1998)|
|Senate Joint Resolution No. 94, adopted by the 1998 Session of the General Assembly, continued the Commission on the Commonwealth's Planning and Budgeting Process. The commission was established by the 1997 Session of the General Assembly pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution No. 350. The commission was charged with examining (i) the feasibility of providing an integrated six-year budget projection for major budget drivers with each biennial budget, (ii) methods for preparing and presenting such a budget projection, and (iii) mechanisms to evaluate the effort of proposed legislation on the budget and the projections. The commission was specifically directed by SJR 94 to examine, during its second year, the feasibility of developing a long-range expenditure forecasting model within the legislative branch.|
During its second year the commission efforts focused on two issues: preparation of legislative impact statements and the development of a legislative capacity to conduct long-range expenditure forecasting.
With respect to the preparation of fiscal impact statements, the commission recommended that Senate Bill 401, enacted as Chapter 765 of the 1998 Acts of Assembly, be repealed. As originally introduced, Senate Bill 401 would have merely codified the existing practice regarding the preparation of impact statements by the Department of Planning and Budget and other responsible agencies. However, the bill was amended to shift the duty of preparing such statements to the Division of Legislative Services. The bill was enacted by the 1998 Session with a delayed effective date of July 1, 1999, with the understanding that the issue would be examined by the commission in the interim.
The commission concluded that creating a fiscal impact statement preparation office in the Division of Legislative Services would not solve the problem of being forced to rely on impact statements prepared by executive branch agencies. Developing an office in the legislative branch to do this work would be expensive. Moreover, the legislature's office would rely on, and in some instances duplicate the work of, executive branch agencies.
Recommendation: Chapter 765 of the 1998 Acts of Assembly, which requires the Division of Legislative Services to prepare fiscal impact statements on legislation, should be repealed.
While repealing Chapter 765 of the 1998 Acts of Assembly would avoid the potential adverse consequences identified by the commission, it would not address the underlying fact that both branches of the General Assembly often are forced to rely on impact statements prepared by executive branch agencies, even when members have serious doubts regarding their accuracy. As noted in the commission's 1998 interim report, many members have expressed concerns with biases and errors reflected in impact statements. As an alternative to developing an office to prepare its own statements, it was suggested to the commission that the General Assembly would be better served by the capability to critique questionable impact statements. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) would be the most appropriate site of a capacity to analyze selected impact statements.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission should be given the resources to conduct analyses, upon request of members of the General Assembly, of specific legislative impact statements.
The preparation of long-range expenditure forecasting is extremely difficult. Regardless of the statistical techniques employed, all multi-year forecasts involve extrapolating historical data into future years. As a starting point, it would be preferable to focus on projected expenditure trends in the budget drivers that account for the bulk of the growth in the general fund budget: Medicaid, adult and juvenile corrections, public education, and higher education. Forecasts in each of these areas are prepared by executive branch agencies, but with limited legislative participation.
The commission endorsed a proposal that would expand JLARC's technical capacity to oversee the expenditure forecasts conducted by executive branch agencies.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission should be given the resources to conduct oversight of expenditure forecasting processes conducted for programs that are drivers of growth in the state budget.