Zero-based budgeting: Coming soon to a judicial branch near you?

The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) defines zero-based budgeting as a system that

subjects all programs, activities and expenditures to justification (in contrast to incremental budgeting). Funding requests, recommendations and allocations for existing and new programs are usually ranked in priority order on the basis of alternative service levels, which are lower, equal to and higher than current levels. This process can be used in conjunction with either line-item budgeting and/or program budgeting.

According to NASBO in 2008, 17 states use ZBB or “modified” ZBB for at least some state funding.

ZBB was and is under active consideration by several states this year, with many such bills explicitly applying to the state’s judicial branches. Among the most active is Minnesota’s SB 1047, which would put the state’s judicial branch budget under ZBB starting in the July 2013 biennial budget. Minnesota proponents argue that it ensures the state lives within its means and does not have unnecessary spending. Opponents counter ZBB is backwards: it is needs that should be identified first, then figuring out the funding.

Other bills that would move the state’s courts to ZBB include:

Active

Massachusetts SB 1619 Requires zero based budgeting “for each agency and department of state government.” In Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

Minnesota HB 2 Applies zero based budgeting to all judicial branch budgets starting with the July 2013 biennium. Approved by House Government Operations and Elections Committee 1/31/11. Approved by State Government Finance Committee 4/28/11. In House Ways and Means Committee.

Minnesota HB 577 Applies zero based budgeting to all judicial branch budget starting with the July 2013 biennium. In House Ways & Means Committee

Minnesota SB 76 Requires judiciary and other branches use zero-based budgets. In House Government Operations and Elections Committee.

New Jersey AB 1201 Requires Judicial Branch make use of  certain zero-based budgeting practices and procedures and specifies 10 items to be submitted to State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting. In Assembly Budget Committee.

New Jersey SB 344 Requires Judicial Branch make use of  certain zero-based budgeting practices and procedures and specifies 10 items to be submitted to State Treasurer and the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting. In Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

South Carolina HB 3215 Provides House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will implement a zero-base budget review process as part of the annual appropriations process beginning with appropriations for fiscal year 2012-2013 for all elements of judicial branch. In House Committee on Ways and Means.

South Carolina SB 15 Provides House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will implement a zero-base budget review process as part of the annual appropriations process. Provides such reviews would begin for judiciary in FY 2014-2015. In Senate Committee on Finance.

South Carolina HB 3528 Provides House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will implement a zero-base budget review process as part of the annual appropriations process. Provides such reviews would begin for judiciary in FY 2014-2015. In House Committee on Ways and Means.

Previously active, dead for session

Georgia HB 33 Requires zero-base budgeting for most state agencies. Encourages but does not require judicial branch participate in the zero-base budgeting process proposed in bill. Approved by full House 4/13/11.

Georgia SB 33 Requires zero-base budgeting for most state agencies. Encourages but does not require judicial branch participate in the zero-base budgeting process proposed in bill. “Encourages” language amended out. See HB 33.

Minnesota SB 3 Requires judiciary and other branches use zero-based budgets. Amended into SB 1047.

Montana HB 343 Provides for “partial” zero-based budgets in judicial branch and other branches/agencies. Approved by full House 3/24/11. Tabled in Senate Finance and Claims Committee 4/6/11.

Inactive, dead for session

Illinois SB 1212 requires for fiscal year 2013 and beyond zero-based budgeting for the judicial branch and all agencies under the jurisdiction of the Executive Ethics Commission. No hearings held.