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How Does Georgia’s Budget Work?

February 6, 2014
"Budget" written on a chalk board

Creating and managing the state’s budget is a year-long process that requires the work of state agencies, the Governor and the General Assembly. Georgia’s Constitution has strict requirements regarding the state’s budget, and it provides the Governor with a great amount of authority and oversight in the budget process.

Unlike the federal government, the state must have a balanced budget for each fiscal year.  While some states pass a biennial budget every 2 years, Georgia goes through the appropriations process annually, and each annual appropriations act is amended the following year to allow the state to adjust the budget to meet enrollment growth needs or revenue changes not known when the original budget was passed. This allows the state to keep a close control on revenue and spending levels to ensure the budget remains balanced.

The budget process begins during the summer when the Governor works with the State Economist and the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) to determine the estimated revenues for the current and upcoming fiscal year along with any anticipated growth needs in the budget. Based on those revenue and budget projections, the Governor sets the budget instructions for the amended and next fiscal year budgets at a level that will ensure a balanced budget.

The Governor typically releases budget instructions for the Amended and General budgets in July of each year. Agencies work to produce a budget request that complies with those instructions and must submit their budgets to OPB by Sept. 1 of each year.

Throughout the fall, the Governor and OPB review agency budget requests and work to develop the Governor’s final budget recommendations for the amended and next fiscal years. The Governor meets with agency heads to discuss their budgets as well as with his Council of Economic Advisors to discuss the state’s economic outlook.

The Governor and the State Economist will continue to monitor economic conditions and refine the revenue estimate as needed. The Governor finalizes his budget recommendations with OPB at the end of December before submitting it to the General Assembly.

The Georgia Constitution requires that the Governor submit his budget recommendations to the General Assembly within 5 days of the Assembly convening for its regular session each year in January. The Governor’s appropriations acts are then reviewed through the same committee process as other legislation, but all appropriations bills must be introduced in the House of Representatives.

The General Assembly may amend the budget recommended by the Governor, but they may not exceed the Governor’s estimated revenues. The Governor may change the revenue estimate during the legislative session to either increase or decrease the estimate in response to changing economic conditions.

Once the General Assembly has passed both the Amended and General appropriations acts, the Governor has 40 days following the legislative session to review each appropriations act for line-item vetoes.

The Governor’s line item veto power extends to any individual appropriation in the budget bill. Under program-based budgeting, an individual appropriation is defined as a budgetary program or single general obligation bond. The Governor then signs the final appropriations bills.

Once the bills are signed, OPB works with agencies to amend their current year budgets to implement the Amended appropriations act and prepare their operating budgets for the upcoming fiscal year based on next year’s appropriations act. Throughout the year, OPB works with agencies to monitor expenditures, review and approve budget amendments and allotments and provide other budgetary guidance to agencies.

About the Agency

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget was established in 1972 to provide the Governor with timely, accurate, and comprehensive information on the state’s budget and associated policy issues. Additional information on the state’s budget may be found on OPB’s website.

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