An Overview of the State Budget Process Nationwide

Budgeting processes differ in every state in the U.S. In Nebraska, for example, the House legislative leadership is non-partisan and not based on party affiliation. In the 49 other states this year, 30 budgets were passed in partisan fashion, while 19 received bipartisan support. Of the partisan budgets, there was an even split of 15 Democrat-led states and 15 Republican-led states. And of the bipartisan budgets that were passed, 15 of the 19 were in GOP-led Houses.

Most states run their budgets from July 1 through June 30 in what is termed a fiscal year. There are exceptions - including New York, Texas, Alabama and Michigan - which start their fiscal years in a different month. As of July 3, 43 states have enacted their FY ’24 budgets. States must balance their budgets every year and have revenues to cover all spending. States can put money in ‘rainy day’ funds, which sets aside money in reserve to address unforeseen expenses. Most states’ legislative sessions begin in January, and over the course of several months the budget process plays out after the Governor submits a proposed budget. Recommended budgets for FY ’24 called for total general fund spending of $1.23 trillion, a 2.5 percent increase from FY ’23. 

Over 75 percent of the bipartisan budgets passed this year were in Republican-led states. In previous generations, both parties used to work together much more often for the common good. But in today’s hyper-partisan world, things are obviously different. The job of any politician should be to work for their constituents and help enact the best policies to serve them. In many cases, this is best achieved by an exchange of ideas and compromise. Based on the latest bipartisan data available, Republicans are doing a better job of compromising than Democrats are right now.

The Fiscal Year 2024 budget in Illinois, which was passed in late May, was a partisan budget that received no Republican support. The Democrats hold a supermajority in both the House and Senate, and Republicans were shut out of the budget process. The budget was passed a week late and in the middle of the night by the Democrats, with budget details being released only a couple of days, or the legal bare minimum of time, before the final vote was held.

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) has repeatedly asked for Republicans to be included in the budget process. At the end of this spring’s Session, she again called out the Democratic leadership. “Although our caucus did not always agree, we did not want you to go it alone,” McCombie stated. “That was your choice. In the coming months and over the summer, as we approach a very busy veto session, bring us to the table. We are problem solvers. You can benefit from our leadership and benefit from our talents. We are here to govern.”

The way government is working in Illinois under Gov. Pritzker in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly is not how it’s done in many other states. The budget process doesn’t have to be contentious, but in Illinois the budget process is now shrouded in secrecy and pushed through quickly in the middle of the night by hyper-partisan Democratic lawmakers. Research has shown that legislative effectiveness is heightened when members build bipartisan coalitions around the bills they sponsor.