Wisconsin operates under a two-year or “biennial” state budget. The process of developing the biennial budget begins in the fall of each even-numbered year, when state agencies submit their requests to the governor and the Department of Administration (DOA).
The State Budget Office within DOA develops the “executive budget” based on the governor’s priorities and agency requests. The governor then presents his budget to the state legislature for its consideration, typically in January or February of each odd-numbered year. By law, the governor’s proposal is automatically introduced as a bill by the Joint Committee on Finance (typically referred to as the “Joint Finance Committee” or JFC).
Once the governor’s budget is introduced, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau will take several weeks to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the bill for the Joint Finance Committee. Beginning around mid-March, JFC will hold committee hearings to discuss the budget and invite selected agency leaders to testify before the committee. Throughout March and April, JFC will also hold hearings at locations around the state to hear from members of the public.
Following these hearings, JFC will hold a series of meetings to vote on motions affecting various aspects of the budget bill. This usually occurs around the end of May. At the end of the JFC budget process, all of the committee’s modifications to the governor’s bill are incorporated in a substitute amendment and sent to the full legislature for floor votes in each house.
The legislature generally takes up the bill in June and sends the final product to the governor by the end of the month. The governor will take up to 30 days to review the bill before issuing a decision. As with any other bill, to become law, the state budget must pass both houses of the legislature and be signed by the governor.
Wisconsin’s governor has the power to sign the budget into law while exercising a “partial veto” by removing individual words and reducing numbers to change or eliminate appropriations or statutory language within the budget bill. The governor may also choose to veto the entire budget, but this is exceedingly rare.