The Commonwealth’s annual fiscal budget commands the attention of individuals and industries across the spectrum each year – appropriating tens of billions of dollars to create, sustain, and grow economic opportunities throughout Massachusetts. The Budget is created, shaped, debated, and changed by the Governor’s Administration and both branches of the State Legislature, as well as citizens and advocates, during a seven month process.
While each fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30, all eyes turn towards the Governor each January. The Governor’s Office is the first to weigh in on the budgetary priorities of the year, as the Massachusetts’ Constitution requires the Governor to file his budget proposal by the fourth Wednesday of January or within five weeks of starting a new term. Depending on the year of the Legislative Session, the Governor’s proposal will be named either House Bill 1 or House Bill 2.
The Governor’s Budget is studied by both branches of the Legislature and by all interested parties upon its highly anticipated release. Procedurally, however, the bill pends before the Legislature for months after it is filed while the House of Representatives and Senate produce and debate their own budget proposals. During the winter months, the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means hold budget hearings in Boston and across the state.
The House Committee on Ways and Means will release their budgetary proposal for the consideration and deliberation of the entire House of Representatives in April. Once the House Ways and Means Committee’s bill has been released, members of the House of Representatives have an opportunity to file amendments that strike, add to, or alter the language contained in the Committee’s proposal. The House typically files over a thousand amendments to the bill. All of the Amendments are processed and usually categorized and consolidated by topic before being taken up on the floor for debate by the entire body of the House of Representatives. Once the House approves the bill, it is sent to the Senate for consideration.
Nearly the exact process is repeated in the Senate in May. Although the Senate will “consider” the House Budget proposal, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is already hard at work composing their own budget proposal. Once the Senate Committee releases their proposal to the Senate, all Senators have a period of time to file amendments (again, typically filing about one thousand amendments to the bill), the amendments are consolidated and debated, and a final proposal is agreed upon by the Senate by an up or down vote.
After both branches of the Legislature have approved their own body’s budget proposal, a Conference Committee is appointed. The House and Senate appoint three representatives from each branch (two from the majority party and one from the minority party) to hammer out the differences between the two bills. The Conference Committee releases a final compromise report which is sent to the floor of both the House and Senate for a final vote of acceptance.
Once both branches approve the Conference Committee proposal, it goes to the Governor’s desk where he will have ten days to review and take action. The Governor has line item veto powers for the State Budget, so while he can approve or veto the entire budget, he also may (and usually does) veto specific line items or sections and propose additional amendments for consideration again by the Legislature. If the Governor makes any vetoes or changes, the proposal goes back to the Legislature, which may override the Governor’s vetoes and amendments with a two-thirds majority vote.
As you can see, the Budget Process has many steps and can be a complicated process. Interested parties have many opportunities to change or add to the budget. Likewise, however, interested parties must monitor all of the steps carefully to ensure that language is not added or advanced that may hurt their cause. If you would like assistance in navigating this complicated process, don’t hesitate to contact The Brennan Group, Inc. Please reach out to us here for a complimentary Consultation. This short guide will help prepare you for the next steps in your process. To learn about our other areas of expertise, our accomplishments, and our team, please visit us at The Brennan Group.