Biennial Budgeting:

Three States' Experiences

GAO-01-132: Published: Oct 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 2000.

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Members of Congress periodically have expressed interest in converting the federal budget process from an annual to a biennial cycle. Congress believes that the time spent on these activities has come at the expense of congressional oversight and authorization responsibilities. To better understand states' experiences with the biennial budget cycle, GAO studied three states: Arizona, Ohio, and Connecticut. GAO found that the states' reasons for changing their budget cycles varied. For example, Arizona adopted a biennial cycle to increase legislative oversight and reduce time spent on the budget. Connecticut adopted it as part of a fiscal reform effort. To execute a biennial budget successfully, the states' experiences suggest that the legislative and executive branches must agree on how the off-year budget process will work. Different approaches to managing the off-year budget have been developed by states, including establishing formal guidelines for off-year budget changes and relying on leadership control. Efforts to increase legislative oversight in the off-year by converting to a biennial budget process may be difficult. Ohio and Connecticut officials said they that have not increased legislative oversight in the off-year, and Arizona officials said that, although they formally included a process for increasing oversight, they have faced considerable challenges. State experiences can provide useful insights, but the federal budget has unique issues that must be considered before implementing a biennial budget process.

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