The recommendations which were made by President Taft's Commission on
1 President Harding, in a speech delivered before the Academy of Political Science, at the Hotel Astor, May 23, 1921.
Economy and Efficiency created much interest among the various states, and soon began to bear fruit in these political units, although the report was not adopted by Congress. The question of the budget soon acquired an important place in state politics and became a plank in many party platforms. The systematic procedure which the budgetary proposal emphasized presented a strong appeal to those states that were financially embarrassed, and many states quickly legislated some form of budget into law. In fact, the adoption has been almost too rapid, for frequently the plan hit upon was not adapted to the needs of the state, or did not give the desired centralized responsibility. So rapid was the principle accepted, that by the end of 1919 there were less than half a dozen states in which some form of budget had not been adopted. In some cases, of course, the plan was very unsatisfactory, but it represented a start toward more efficient fiscal management.
Forms of State Budgets. - While the budget laws of the states vary greatly in their requirements, yet it is possible, in a general way, to classify them. The type which has been most in favor might be called the executive budget. More than half of the states have this form, and it is particularly significant that really all budgets which have been recently adopted have been of this type. As • indicated by the name given to this class of budget, the responsibility is placed upon the Governor. In some states a designated group of the administrative officers is made responsible for the budget. The Governor is usually made a member of this group. Still another scheme which is used to some extent is to have the budget prepared by a joint committee of representatives from the legislature and administrative officers. In two or three cases, moreover, the responsibility for the formation of the budget is placed upon a legislative committee.
Maryland Budget. - It would take us too far afield to examine the details found in the budget systems of the various states. As an example, however, of a comprehensive executive budget, and one which has been widely copied, the scheme used by the state of Maryland deserves notice. The form and classification of all estimates are to be determined by the Governor, while he is given the power to revise all the estimates except those of the legislature, the judiciary, and the public schools. Two budgets must be prepared, one for each of the two successive years. If the Governor has held office for one year the budget must be submitted within twenty days after the opening of the legislative session. If he has not held office for one year, he is given thirty days to submit the budget. The budget bill is presented to the presiding officer of each house by the Governor, and these officers are required to introduce it immediately to their respective branches of the legislature. The Governor, however, and such administrative officers as he may designate have the right to appear and be heard with respect to the bill at any time it is under consideration. They are required,' furthermore, to appear at the request of either branch of the legislature.
The Maryland law goes farther than most states in limitations upon the legislature and in the details which are required in the budget bill. No amendments may be added which would change any obligations required by the constitution, or the funds for public schools. The legislature may either increase or decrease items which relate to the judiciary or general assembly. All other items may be reduced or eliminated, but cannot be increased. No special appropriation bill can be considered until the general budget bill has been finally passed. When special appropriation bills arise they must be limited to a single purpose, while the bill must provide some form of tax, its method of levy and collection, for the purpose of securing the necessary revenue. Such bills must receive the majority vote of the elected members of each legislative branch, and are subject to the veto of the Governor.
The items in each of the budgets presented at the opening of the legislative session are divided into two parts - those for governmental appropriations and those for general appropriations. The governmental appropriations contain estimates of expenditures for the general assembly, executive department, the judiciary, principal and interest of the state debt, salaries allowed by the constitution, and other purposes sanctioned by the constitution. All other estimates fall under the general expenditures. The bill, moreover, must outline a definite plan for all contemplated expenditures and revenues, and show how any anticipated surplus or deficit of funds is to be handled. The bill must contain, in addition, statements showing revenues and expenditures for each of the two preceding years, a balance sheet, funds and debts, an estimate of the fiscal condition at the end of each year covered by the budget, and any explanations the Governor may wish to make.
Other States. - Many states have not gone to such a degree of detail as is found in Maryland; in others the required details differ, while still others have gone even farther in the reorganization of the fiscal department. Illinois illustrates one of the best examples of an attempt to reorganize thoroughly the fiscal machinery. In this state all administrative offices, except two elective boards, and those provided for in the constitution, are consolidated into nine departments. A director, appointed by the Governor, with the approval of the Senate, heads each of the departments. The finance department has provided for a uniform system of accounting to be used in each department. It examines all accounts and approves or disapproves all vouchers. A fist of the anticipated activities of each department, together with their estimated cost, must be presented to the finance department before appropriations become available. This department is further required to prepare the budget, and in the performance of this duty is given extensive investigating powers to enable accurate estimates to be formed. The budget goes from this department through the Governor to the legislature, upon which no restrictions have been placed as to rejecting or changing the items.
Budgetary procedure in the states has been of too short duration to draw any sweeping conclusion as to its success in accomplishing the desired results. As might be expected, many deficiencies have appeared in the laws, which a little time and experience will modify. The consensus of opinion is that the use of the system has been a marked success and is saving the public much in the form of taxes. Whether it is but another example of a "new broom sweeps clean" remains to be seen, but one is confident in predicting continued favorable results from such a detailed budget as the Maryland system, and such central supervision as exists in Illinois.