This blog post is for all of the readers that seek a better understanding of the processes used by state government to prepare a biennium budget. To borrow a common phrase used around government, this post will take a brief look at how the sausage is made, but I promise, we will not dwell on each ingredient.
Although there is still ten months to go in the current fiscal year, work has already begun on the 2022-2023 biennium budget. Fiscal year 2022 begins on July 1, 2021. However, the governor is required to submit an executive budget to the General Assembly within four weeks after the new General Assembly is organized and begins business. That means the budget has to be ready for legislative review by the first week of February 2021. This budget not only outlines the request for money, but it also includes requests for changes to the Ohio Revised Code or additional language surrounding temporary budget laws. The task of gathering this information from all of the boards, commissions, agencies and cabinet level agencies falls to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Budget requests from other statewide elected offices and from the judiciary are completed internally and then bundled into documents for review by the legislature. In Ohio, there are four operating budgets – Main Operating, Transportation, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Ohio Industrial Commission.
As I write this blog post, the OBM has set timetables for required information. Much like a budget process at a large corporation, each division or section of that corporation is required to submit full-time equivalent “head-count” needs, expenses needed for plant and property and money needed to fulfill the objectives of that division or section.
Likewise, OBM has asked each board, commission, agency and cabinet level agency to submit budget information on various forms that will be gathered on the government portal and then reviewed by OBM. The process this year is impacted by the ongoing health pandemic caused by COVID-19. OBM has asked each to identify ways to be more efficient and pioneering. For example, could an agency save rent by going virtual? Could an agency streamline its customer facing processes to lower the cost of the process and make the entire process more efficient? Maybe there are outdated programs or activities that can be eliminated going forward.
In the end, some agencies will require more resources to assist Ohioans with recovery from the pandemic, and other agencies may need to tighten the belt a little more. Remember that many of the state level boards, commissions and agencies reduced expenses to balance the 2020 fiscal year that just ended in June. In fact, OBM is requesting information using two scenarios: Operating A that reflects general revenue funds at a 10% reduction from current funding and Operating B as a continuing priorities request that doesn’t set forth a reduction target but asks the agency to rethink operations, organizational structure and outcomes that are more efficient and more effective.
OBM has set early deadlines for language requests. Some smaller boards and commissions are required to have those requests in yet this month. Larger agencies will receive additional time and all language requests will be at OBM by November 1. A similar timeframe is be utilized for other information and funding requests. OBM will use the period between November and January to review the information and keep an eye on revenue results for the current fiscal year.
As the planning process concludes, the first look of this new biennium budget is a series of publications known as the Blue Books. As always, the Ohio Chamber will follow this process and will keep our members informed as events warrant.
And as a member driven organization, the Ohio Chamber will utilize the public policy priorities implemented by the nine Ohio Chamber policy committees to guide our actions as the Ohio Chamber advocates for our members at the state capitol during the next state budget cycle.