The state cannot appropriate more than the official revenue certification. Budget reforms in the 1980s created the State Board of Equalization to make a revenue estimate that limits how much can be appropriated each year. The Board consists of seven public officials – the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor and Inspector, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Agriculture Commissioner. The Equalization Board is staffed by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which delivers presentations to the Board on state economic conditions and revenue estimates.
The Board’s role in the budget process proceeds as follows:
- In late December the Board makes a preliminary estimate that establishes the revenue that can be included in the Governor’s budget.
- In February, the Board makes a revised estimate considering changes in revenue collections and economic conditions. This establishes the maximum amount the Legislature can appropriate under revenue laws as they exist at the beginning of the legislative session.
- The Board may meet again only to revise the certification if the Legislature approves changes in revenue laws. It may increase or decrease the amount the Legislature can appropriate. This meeting occurs in June.
The Board of Equalization plays an important role in the budget process by creating a binding revenue estimate. In practice, the Board provides formal approval to estimates that have been developed from forecasting models by economic consultants and by experts within state government. This process is designed with the goal of ending political disagreements on how much can be spent and focusing instead on how the fixed amount should be spent.