Separations of Powers: Appropriation Powers
Legislatures are responsible for enacting laws and appropriating funds. But what does “appropriating funds” mean? It is the action taken by the legislature to authorize the expenditure of a designated amount of public funds for a specific purpose.
- By definition, “appropriating funds” appears to be straightforward. In reality, the appropriation process is not quite so clear cut. Both legislative and executive branches play significant roles in budgeting.
- Executive branch agencies provide budgetary information to the governor, who then develops a proposed budget and submits it to the legislature.
- The legislature reviews and adjusts the governor’s proposed budget until it is in a form that is acceptable to the legislature, and the budget is passed.
- The enacted budget is returned to the governor for his or her consideration.
- Governors may veto the enacted budget in its entirety. In most states, governors also have the option to veto only portions (items) of the bill.
- If any gubernatorial vetoes occur, the budget is returned to the legislature with the governor’s objections.
- The legislature can override gubernatorial vetoes, thereby enacting the vetoed bill (or portions thereof) into law over the governor’s objections.
In addition, most states operate under balanced budget requirements. Questions frequently arise over who is responsible for maintaining the balanced budget and what actions can be taken to do so.
Federal funds also can trigger state legislative-executive conflict over who controls these funds.
- Connecticut: Attorney General’s Opinion, response to Representative Edward C. Krawiecki, Jr.’s question "whether the Governor may act, through executive order, to appropriate and expend state monies by authorizing the continuation of government operations," November 1991
- Federal: Congressional Research Service, Overview of the Authorization-Appropriations Process, June 2008
- Federal: Congressional Research Service, The Congressional Appropriations Process: An Introduction, November 2016
- Georgia: Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, The Budget Process, 2021
- Georgia: Office of the Attorney General, Unofficial Opinion 2000-2, Feb. 11, 2000
- Indiana: State Budget Agency, The Budget Process, 2021
- Kentucky: Legislative Research Commission: Budget Process
- Michigan: Michigan House Fiscal Agency, A Legislator’s Guide to Michigan’s Budget Process, January 2019
- Minnesota: Senate Counsel, Research and Fiscal Policy Office, Legislative History of Unallotment Power, June 2009
- Minnesota: Minnesota House Research Department, The State Budget Process, July 2016
- Minnesota: Minnesota House Research Department, Unallotment—Executive Branch Power to Reduce Spending to Avoid a Deficit, March 2008
- Minnesota: Minnesota Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy, Statutory Appropriations Guidelines, December 2002
- Mississippi: Attorney General’s Opinion, “Authority to Spend Funds After June 30, 2009 ,” June 2009
- Montana: Legislative Fiscal Division, Understanding State Finances & the Budgeting Process, 2019
- NCSL: Budget Procedures
- NCSL: General Overview of Legislative vs. Executive Appropriations Issues, August 2009
- NCSL: Executive Authority to Cut the Enacted Budget, September 2008
- Nebraska: Nebraska Legislature, The Budget Process
- Texas: Senate Research Center, Budget 101, January 2007
- Washington: Office of Financial Management, A Guide to the Washington State Budget Process, July 2019
- Washington: Attorney General’s Opinion AGLO 49-51 No. 268, “Control of Appropriations by the Legislature,” May 1950
- Washington: Attorney General’s Opinion AGO 1991 No. 21 - Jun 11 1991 Can a Governor, without statutory authority, create obligations and responsibilities having the force and effect of law, 1991
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Legislative Council, Wisconsin Legislator Briefing Book, 2017-18, “Chapter 4 - Budget Process”
- Wyoming: Wyoming Legislative Service Office, Constitutionally Permissible Content of the General Appropriations Bill, Jan. 14, 2016
- Arizona Law Review: Susan Schwem, “Forty-Seventh Legislature of the State of Arizona v. Napolitano: Appropriations of Authority,” Arizona Law Review, Vol. 40:179, 2007
- Illinois: People ex rel. Kirk v. Lindberg, 59 Ill. 2d 38, 320 N.E.2d 17 (1974)
- Michigan: House Speaker v. State Administrative Board, 441 Mich. 547; 495 NW2d 539 (1993)
- Minnesota: Deanna Brayton, et al. vs. Tim Pawlenty, et al., 2009
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Bullock Mfg. Co. v. Babcock, 22 Neb. 33, 33 N.W. 709 (1887)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Dales v. Moore, 36 Neb. 579, 54 N.W. 866 (1893)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Norfolk Beet-Sugar Co. v. Moore, 50 Neb. 88, 69 N.W. 373 (1896)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Hibbard v. Cornell, 60 Neb. 276, 83 N.W. 72 (1900)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Ledwith v. Brian, 84 Neb. 30, 120 N.W. 916 (1909)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Ridgell v. Hall, 99 Neb. 89, 155 N.W. 228 (1915), affirmed on rehearing 99 Neb. 95, 156 N.W. 16 (1916), overruled in Rein v. Johnsen, 149 Neb. 67, 30 N.W.2d 548 (1947).
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Western Bridge & Construction Co. v. Marsh, 111 Neb. 185, 196 N.W. 130 (1923)
- Nebraska: Fischer v. Marsh, 113 Neb. 153, 202 N.W. 422 (1925)
- Nebraska: Power Oil Co. v. Cochran, 138 Neb. 827, 295 N.W. 805 (1941)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Johnson v. Marsh, 149 Neb. 1, 29 N.W.2d 799 (1947)
- Nebraska: Midwest Popcorn Co. v. Johnson, 152 Neb. 867, 43 N.W.2d 174 (1950)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Meyer v. Duxbury, 183 Neb. 302, 160 N.W.2d 88 (1968)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Meyer v. Steen, 183 Neb. 297, 160 N.W.2d 164 (1968)
- Nebraska: State ex rel. Meyer v. State Board of Equalization & Assessment, 185 Neb. 490, 176 N.W.2d 920 (1970)
- Nebraska: Stahmer v. State, 192 Neb. 63, 218 N.W.2d 893 (1974)
- Virginia: Virginia Division of Legislative Services, Virginia Legislative Issue Brief No. 15, “Binding the Hands of Future Legislators: The Nebraska v. Moore Case,“ July 1996
Federal Funds Appropriation
South Carolina: Casey Edwards and Justin Williams v. State of South Carolina, 2009
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