Back 

Supermajority Vote Requirements to Pass the Budget

 

Supermajority Vote Requirements to Pass the Budget

A Legisbrief

November/December 1998 - Updated October 2008
Vol. 6, No. 48

Some states require an extraordinary vote to pass general appropriations bills for state operations.

In an effort to control spending or limit certain types of appropriations, some states require an extraordinary vote to pass general appropriations bills for state operations. Although they are not spending limits in the traditional sense, requirements for a supermajority--two-thirds, three-fourths or three-fifths of the legislature--can limit spending decisions if an agreement cannot be reached.

Extraordinary vote requirements vary. Nine states have some type of requirement. Three--Arkansas, California and Rhode Island--need a supermajority vote each budget cycle to pass appropriations bills. Of the 47 states that require a simple majority vote, six--Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi and Nebraska--require a supermajority under certain conditions.

 

Vote Required to Pass the Budget for State Operations

 

Arkansas. A constitutional amendment that become effective in 1934 requires the Arkansas legislature to obtain a three-fourths majority on appropriations for all purposes except education, highways, and paying down the state debt. (Const., Art. V, Sec. 39). Appropriations for these purposes require a simple majority of members elected.

 

California. A constitutional provision dating back to 1933 requires a two-thirds vote for general fund appropriations for purposes other than public schools (Const., Art. IV, Sec. 12). Because the Legislature typically passes one main budget bill, the requirement has effectively applied to the whole budget bill.

 

Connecticut. Appropriations require a simple majority of members elected, unless the general fund expenditure ceiling is exceeded. In that case, the Legislature must obtain a three-fifths majority (C.G.S.A. Sec. 2-33a).

 

Hawaii. Appropriations require a simple majority of members elected, unless the general fund expenditure ceiling is exceeded. In that case, the Legislature must obtain a two-thirds majority (Const., Art. VII, Sec. 9).

 

Illinois. Since 1994, an amendment to the constitution has required a majority vote until June 1 to pass all legislation, including the budget. After that date, the legislature must obtain a three-fifths vote (Const., Art. IV, Sec. 10). The intent is to provide an incentive for the legislature to complete its work in a timely fashion before the supermajority is required. Budgets were passed on time in 1995, 1996 and 1997, but it is not certain that the supermajority vote is responsible. The previous requirement--that a three-fifths majority was needed after June 30--failed to prevent late budget on a number of occasions in the 1980s and early 1990s.

 

Maine. A simple majority is required to pass all bills, and they become effective 90 days after the Legislature adjourns (Const., Art. IV, Sec. 16). If the budget isn't passed before April 1, however, it will not take effect by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. For the budget to be operative in time. The Legislature must pass it as an emergency, requiring a two-thirds vote. (Bills passed as emergencies take effect immediately.) In at least the last two years, a budget has been enacted as nonemergency legislation to avoid the supermajority requirement. Shortly afterward, the governor and the Legislature resolved pending budget issues in a special session.

 

Nebraska. Similar to Maine, a Nebraska provision dictates bill effective dates to be 90 legislative days after they are enacted in odd years (Const., Art. III, Sec. 27, Rule 6, Sec. 10). If the budget is passed after the end of March in an extended session, an emergency clause requiring a two-thirds vote is attached to make it operative at the beginning of the fiscal year.

 

Rhode Island. For appropriations for local or private purposes, a two-thirds majority vote is required (Const., Art. VI, Sec. 11). Because the state typically drafts all main appropriations bills for operations into a single budget bill, a two-thirds vote has been effectively necessary for all appropriations.

There is little empirical evidence identifying the effects of supermajority vote requirements on the budget process.

There is little empirical evidence identifying the effects of supermajority vote requirements on the budget process. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they may cause states to miss or bump up against their budget deadlines, making it even harder to pass a budget on time. And, according to a new report released by the California Citizens Budget Commission, instead of slowing the growth in state spending, California's two-thirds vote requirement may have the opposite effect, allowing the legislative minority to frustrate the process of reaching compromise by withholding votes for spending in other areas. Ultimately, however, it is important to note that difficult budget decisions are probably more likely to be an obstacle to getting the budget passed on time than the number of votes required.

Selected References

A 21st Century Budget Process for California. Los Angeles: California Citizens Budget Commission, 1998.

Inside the Legislative Process. Denver: Colorado: National Conference of State Legislatures, February 1998.

Legislative Budget Procedures in the States, Commonwealths and Territories. Denver, Colorado: National Conference of State Legislatures, June 1998.


Posted November/ December 1998, reviewed December 2003.
Email statebudget-info@ncsl.org for more information.

Share this: 
New Members Welcome
We are the nation's most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

NCSL Member Toolbox

Denver

7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
Tel: 303-364-7700 | Fax: 303-364-7800

Washington

444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-624-5400 | Fax: 202-737-1069

Copyright 2014 by National Conference of State Legislatures