Burgum tweaks budget planning for North Dakota state agencies
BISMARCK — Gov. Doug Burgum is moving up a step he introduced last year for North Dakota state agencies' budget planning.
After issuing his new two-year budget guidelines in April 2018, Burgum's office introduced "strategy reviews" held with 57 state agencies to go over their missions, functions and needs to aid the executive budgeting process before the 2019 legislative session.
Now such reviews will precede the governor issuing his budget guidelines next year, moving up agencies' budget planning, which has typically begun around April preceding the odd-year legislative sessions.
"Budget guidelines will reflect the effort that everybody puts into the strategic work that they do, as opposed to again being constrained by or influenced by or impacted by whatever guidelines we might put out," Burgum said Thursday, Aug. 5, during a meeting of Capitol officials.
Tentatively, the governor's office will conduct reviews with state agencies from January to March 2020, followed by Burgum's budget guidelines issued in April and his budget recommendation to the Legislature in December of next year, according to governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki.
Most state agencies' budget proposals will be due in July to the Office of Management and Budget, but there can be extensions, according to Director Joe Morrissette.
He said the earlier reviews should allow state agencies to focus on their vision before planning their budget. Many agencies in 2018 postponed work on their budget until after their review, thus delaying their submission, Morrissette said.
"This is an effort to engage between agencies and the governor in their strategic planning, then incorporate that learning and prioritization into the budget process," he said.
Moments before Burgum gave his budget address in December 2018, state lawmakers made a rule change that essentially kept his budget recommendations from being introduced as bills. Legislative budget committees instead worked from their previous two-year appropriations, though Burgum's blueprint while was still provided to them.
The governor later criticized the rule change, saying, "We handed over the budget, and that budget is — I don't want to say tossed in the garbage, but that's how it felt."
Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, the chief House budget writer, said lawmakers still vet the governor's proposal but start from their previous two-year appropriations.
"The difference is that we now make our decision and make the changes from what we did last time, instead of making the changes from what the governor proposes, which all makes sense to me," Delzer said.
Nowatzki said the governor has a constitutional responsibility to prepare an executive budget, which he plans to fulfill, regardless of lawmakers' path.
Delzer said the new review process for state agencies "likely has good value," likening it to lawmakers' bill hearings.
Starting in January, a year from when the 2021 Legislature convenes, is "quite a ways out," he said. Revenue forecasts provided and adopted during the legislative session help guide lawmakers' budgeting.
"Strategy has to drive budget," Burgum said.