Resources for Understanding Alabama's Budget Process

By on February 1st, 2016 in , , : in State & Local Government

One resource for understanding budgets is the Budget Fact Book published by the Alabama’s Legislative Fiscal Office.

As February approaches, the Legislature is preparing to return to Montgomery for yet another tough session of struggling with Alabama’s budgets.

The Governor’s Office is in the process of crafting a proposed plan and budget. The Legislature has already begun its process of reviewing budget requests from state agencies.

PARCA’s annual meeting, to be held Friday, February 5 at the Harbert Center in Birmingham, will focus on Alabama’s budget process: how it works now and how it might be improved. The meeting agenda features William Glasgall of the Volcker Alliance, a national nonpartisan effort to rebuild trust in government and improve its effectiveness. Glasgall serves as the Program Director for the Alliance’s State and Local Accountability and Improvement programs, which has focused its research on ways to improve state budgeting and financial practices. Leaders from the Legislature’s budget committee will participate in a panel discussion of the budget process and the challenges the state will face. Gov. Robert Bentley will deliver the luncheon address.

In preparation, PARCA has compiled a sampling of resources available to those who want to better understand the budget process.

You can find an overview about how the various states pursue budgeting in Budget Processes of the States from the National Association of State Budget Officers. The publication explains terms like programs, performance, and zero-based budgeting, and compares states on the approaches they take. The Volcker Alliance’s website features several publications recommending improvements in the way states budget.

Closer to home, the basic law describing how Alabama’s budget process is supposed to work is the Budget Management Act.

For those of you who want to follow the blow-by-blow of the budgeting process during the coming session, here are some key links:

The Executive Budget Office

When the Governor publishes his budget in the coming weeks, it will be posted here as the executive budget, along with budgets from previous years. The Finance Department website also includes budget summary spreadsheets that offer comparisons of the governor’s proposed but with those of prior years.

After they are introduced, The Legislative Fiscal Office also publishes spreadsheets of the budgets under consideration.

Annually, the Fiscal Office also publishes and posts A Legislator’s Guide to Alabama Taxes, with detailed information about tax collections and descriptions of Alabama and also the annual Budget Fact Book, with information about each agency’s budget and performance measures.

For the super budget geeks:

You can find reports on state revenue and spending at Open.Alabama.gov.

In a different spot on the Web, the Department of Finance publishes Quarterly Budget Management Reports that detail year-to-date revenues and expenditures for each agency and Quarterly Performance Reports that are supposed to provide insight into how agencies are doing carrying out their various missions.

But a word of warning, the Budget Management Reports are detailed and dense. The pdf file that includes all spending and revenue by state agencies is 2,627 pages long.  The Quarterly Performance Reports for all state agencies are over 200 pages long, and the depth of information varies widely agency-by-agency.