Mandating Budget Bills Contain a Narrative
S.208 would require that the Governor’s budget, the House Ways and Means budget, and Senate Finance budget all contain narratives regarding each agency and its programs. Included in the narrative would be the “mission, goals, statutory and regulatory basis of each program, and a brief history of the agency’s administration of the program”. Appropriations for any agency would also have to include debt service attributable to the agency, and aid to political subdivisions provided by the agency. Finally, the source of all funding appropriations for each agency would have to be identified, and each agency program’s funding source and share of the total agency budget would have to be given as well.
This reform would be a significant towards illuminating budget documents that can be all but inscrutable to public. Requiring the history and authority behind programs to be revealed in the budget would help to better expose questionable or underperforming initiatives. In addition, more clearly identifying funding sources would make it easier to tell which programs are federally funded and may come with federal strings. SCPC has previously proposed a stronger version of this reform which would require any appropriation of federal dollars to be accompanied by document that details: Cost to citizens’ freedom, new restrictions on citizens and/or state authority, new state, federal, and local taxpayer-financed positions created, new regulations and policy changes mandated, the process by which businesses are to be notified of the new regulations, and any Duplication of private-sector services.
S.208’s budget narrative process wouldn’t go as far as SCPC’s suggested reform but it would be a step in the right direction and a significant improvement over the budget documents that are made available to the public currently.