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The Budget Process

In preparing the budget for the state each year, the General Assembly receives recommendations from its permanent fiscal and budget review agency, the Joint Budget Committee (JBC). The JBC is charged with studying the management, operations, programs, and fiscal needs of the agencies and institutions of Colorado state government. Throughout the year, the JBC holds a number of meetings and considers a range of documents to help prepare the budget recommendations for the General Assembly.

In addition to hearing from the Joint Budget Committee, the General Assembly receives recommendations regarding infrastructure and technology from the Capital Development Committee and the Joint Technology Committee respectively.

The General Assembly also uses economic forecasts prepared by the Legislative Council Staff to develop the state budget, monitor state spending in relation to revenue, and determine and report the amount of excess state revenue under TABOR. These forecasts of the Colorado and U.S. economies and of state revenues are produced at least quarterly (March, June, September, and December).

Budget Requests
During late summer and early fall, executive branch departments submit budget proposals to the Governor's Office of State Planning and Budgeting as part of the executive budget process. The Governor and his or her staff review the budget proposals and limit each executive department's budget request based on the Governor's priorities. The Governor also makes assumptions about the amounts that will be allocated to the judicial and legislative departments in order to submit a balanced budget proposal. All executive and judicial departments submit budget requests to the Joint Budget Committee by November 1. Information about the Governor's budget request is available from the Office of State Planning and Budgeting.
Briefings
As soon as practical after November 1, the JBC holds briefings with the JBC staff. These briefings consist of written and oral presentations by the JBC staff on the departments' budget requests and related information. The briefings are aimed at stimulating discussion among the JBC members about each department's budget request, its operations, issues of efficiency and effectiveness, and plans for the future. During the briefings, the Committee members identify any topics they wish to discuss with the departments at the hearings. All briefings and hearings are open to the public and are recorded. The JBC does not accept public testimony during its hearings with departments.
Hearings
Following a department's briefing the department is invited for a hearing with the JBC. Questions raised by the JBC members during the briefing form the basis for the hearing agenda. The department is also given time to discuss its budget priorities with the JBC. All briefings and hearings are open to the public and are recorded. The JBC does not accept public testimony during its hearings with departments.
Other Meetings with the Public
In addition to hearings with departments, the JBC may choose to allow individuals and groups to testify before the JBC about budget-related topics. In the past these meetings have been on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the JBC is meeting regularly. The nature of these Tuesday/Thursday meetings is determined each year by a vote of the JBC.
Supplementals
In January, the Committee considers department requests for adjustments to appropriations for the current fiscal year; these requests are called "supplementals". JBC analysts review these requests and make recommendations for the Committee's consideration. In order for the state to have a balanced budget and to comply with statutory appropriation limitations and reserve requirements, the JBC may also need to find areas in the budget where appropriations can be reduced. When revenue shortfalls occur, the Governor must ask departments to restrict spending in order for the State to stay within projected revenues. The JBC staff analysts review these restrictions and make recommendations to the Committee, which then decides where appropriations should be reduced. JBC staff analysts prepare supplemental appropriation bills for each department to reflect any mid-year appropriation adjustments approved by the JBC. These bills are introduced in early February for the General Assembly's consideration.
Figure Setting
During February and March the JBC makes funding decisions for the upcoming fiscal year. JBC analysts present each department's budget request and make recommendations for the Committee's consideration in a figure setting document. These recommendations include the amounts and sources of funding for each budget line item, assumptions about the associated number of state employees, and footnotes to be included in the Long Bill to explain the purpose of certain appropriations. This process is called "figure setting". The Committee votes on each staff recommendation, and the JBC analyst recalculates appropriations based on the Committee's actions.
Comebacks
At the end of the figure setting process, departments are allowed to submit a "comeback" request, asking the Committee to reconsider one or more actions. The JBC then reconsiders previous actions in response to comeback requests, to bring total appropriations in line with anticipated revenues, or to ensure compliance with any applicable statutory appropriation limitations or reserve requirements. The JBC staff may also present comebacks to correct technical errors, reflect new information, or clarify a previous JBC action.
General Fund Overview
Throughout the budget process the JBC receives periodic General Fund overviews that compare how the Governor's request, the decisions of the JBC, or the decisions of the General Assembly (depending on where the budget is in the process) compare to the projected revenues and spending limits. A General Fund overview is prepared at least quarterly after each new revenue projection is released by the Legislative Council Staff and the Office of State Planning and Budgeting and may be produced more frequently as needed.
Long Bill, Budget Package, and Long Bill Narrative
The JBC's budget recommendations for ongoing programs are incorporated into the Long Bill, which is typically introduced in late March or early April, for consideration by the entire General Assembly. The JBC may also introduce a budget package that includes other bills that change existing programs or make new programs. The JBC staff prepares a Long Bill Narrative to summarize the recommendations of the JBC that are contained in the Long Bill and any associated budget package bills. JBC members are generally asked to present and explain their recommendations to their party caucuses and/or each committee of reference before amendments are prepared. After both chambers pass the Long Bill, the Governor has line item veto power in acting on the bill, which allows the governor to omit entire line items from the budget, but does not grant authority to only partially veto a line item.
Appropriations Report
After the legislative session ends in early May, the JBC staff prepares an annual Appropriations Report, which explains all funding decisions made by the General Assembly, from the Long Bill and any other bills that contain appropriations.

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