FOLLOWING THE MONEY: CREATING THE STATE BUDGET
Over the next four months the legislature will be making critical decisions, including funding decisions for state agency budgets. Determining appropriations is a multi-step process, which began last October with each agency presenting their needs in their Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) Budget Request.
After administrative review of budget requests, the FY2016 Executive Budget was prepared and presented by Governor Fallin to the Legislature for consideration on February 2 during her state of the state address.
The legislature considers each agency’s budget request and the executive budget through budget hearings at the committee level. Both the House and Senate have multiple Appropriations and Budget Subcommittees, which provide oversight and review to assigned agencies, separated by issue areas, such as Education, Public Safety, Transportation, etc.
Each state agency is reviewed in their subcommittee in both the House and Senate through a performance hearing where the agency director presents details of agency programs and budget needs.
The Oklahoma Arts Council is assigned to the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education. The Oklahoma Arts Council’s Executive Director Amber Sharples already presented at hearings to the committees.
Budget negotiations typically begin in April. At this point, the General Conference Committee on Appropriations (GCCA), made up of both House and Senate members, negotiate spending priorities and a unified budget. Allocations are given to the subcommittees, who then negotiate the funding needs of each agency within their committee.
Once the GCCA agrees on agency budgets, an appropriation bill is approved by a majority of both houses and sent to the Governor for approval or veto. (Oklahoma’s Governor has authority to line item veto any part of appropriation bills.) Final budget decisions are typically made in May, before the end of Legislative Session, May 29, 2015.
While agencies are asking for millions in budget increases, the legislature is starting with a budget of nearly $300 million [or more given estimates last week] less available for appropriation for FY2016 than was appropriated for FY2015, the current fiscal year. In order to meet the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget, cuts to agency budgets are inevitable.
The Governor’s budget recommends a 6.25% cut to most all agencies, including the Oklahoma Arts Council. However, Oklahoma is one of a few states in which the legislature develops a budget independently from that of the Governor. This enables legislators to develop priorities and negotiate outcomes to the needs of the state and to their constituents.
Because of this budget process, arts advocates must inform their legislators about the importance of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s funding, technical assistance and professional development to their community.
Advocates can keep investments in arts and culture a priority. Constituents may write their legislators through our email system, keep them on you mailing list for updates on arts activities in their district or reach out for one-on-one meetings.
By Suzanne Tate, Oklahomans for the Arts Treasurer