Last week, we held a joint Minnesota Budget Project/Minnesota Council of Nonprofits workshop on better understanding how the Governor’s budget is developed and how to best influence that process.
Kristin Dybdal from the Minnesota Department of Finance and Employee Relations provided a great overview of the process, including the following timeline for developing the Governor’s budget proposal:
- From July to November, state agencies work to develop potential budget initiatives based on agency goals and objectives, the Governor’s priorities and stakeholder discussions.
- From September to December, the Department of Finance works with state agencies to analyze and refine potential initiatives, provides analysis to the Governor and facilitates the decision-making process.
- In December and January, the Governor decides what budget initiatives will be recommended in his budget.
Kristin also pointed out some important resources at the Department of Finance‘s web site:
- A list of budget changes enacted in the 2008 Legislative Session.
- A list of contacts at the Department of Finance with detailed information about what programs and agencies each covers.
And finally, she gave us some tentative dates to look forward to – the November Forecast release on December 4 and the Governor’s budget release on January 27, 2009.
We also had a roundtable discussion with Steve Nelson from the Department of Human Services, Craig Acomb from the Department of Health and Mary Ellison from the Department of Public Safety. Some of the things I took from the discussion about how nonprofits can best participate in the budget development process included:
- State agencies are open to input from constituents, including nonprofits. Start with your program officer or other state agency folks with whom you have relationships.
- The most effective information you can provide is data. Data showing the impact of the services your organization provides or that you advocate for will have more impact than anecdotal stories.
Finally, Kevin Goodno gave some important tips about how to best influence the process, drawing on his experiences as a legislator, as Commissioner of Human Services, and today, as a lobbyist. Some of the “take aways”:
- Even in tight economic times, there will always be some new initiatives funded.
- To have the greatest impact, you need to understand the “decision tree” within a state agency and have a champion at each level: division, assistant commissioner and senior management team, and within the Dept. of Finance and the Governor’s office.
- Don’t underestimate the political influence of the House minority and the importance of building relationships with the Department of Finance.
- If you are working to launch a pilot program, think about what data you should collect to best be in a position later to argue for an expansion of that program.