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In the state of Texas, the Senate is the most powerful branch of government. It is by far the most effective because it actively exercises its position to ensure that it regulates and guides the actions of the Texas state government. The assembly is one of the state legislatures that meets in the shortest amount of time per year. With just 140 days in the annual session in odd-numbered years, the time required to enact legislation is extremely limited. This stipulates that a balanced budget must be resolved within the first 60 days of the regular session. This paper will discuss whether this requirement is an advantage or a disadvantage to the members of the legislature as well as members of the public.
Having the first 60 days to address the budget, and only 140 days of the regular session, is both an advantage and a disadvantage to the Texas legislature. Proponents argue that it affords the legislators more time to study a proposed bill and to decide on the budgetary allocation. With a two-year interval, a legislature can manage to carefully study a proposed amendment and consider the advantages and disadvantages associated with it (Levinson 11). There is never enough time to go through a bill during the sessions, and thus the two-year interval creates more time. With the legislature having to meet for only 140 days in two years, they get enough time to deal with their personal issues. Considering their salary of approximately $7000, they need time to find another source of income, and thus the system comes as an advantage to them (Hou and Daniel 33).
The system is a disadvantage to legislatures since they have less time for legislation. With the short time required to make a budget for two years and to pass various bills, many of the bills fail to pass. The failure is associated with less time to go through all the bills, debate and pass them accordingly. For instance, in May 2015, the administrators of the community college asked for $100 million increased funding for the following years before the legislature meets again. However, due to the time constraint, the lawmakers did not even get close. The responsibilities of a lawmaker are more strenuous than the previous years. Thus discharging them on a two-year basis complicates the process even further. The legislative sessions end up being inefficient since most bills die during the sessions including many worthy ones.
Further, most of the bills take too long to pass due to the limited time of 140 days in ever-odd number year. The system does not put a strain on the public financially, but it affects the legislatures. As they hurry to make things done during the termination of the session, most of the important laws that need legislation are left hanging. This situation means that at the opening of the next session, the lawmakers will be forced to finish the workload of the previous session if the governor does not set up special sessions (Snell 13).
Further, the system requires the legislatures to make major financial decisions and budgetary plans for use in the next two years (Snell 13). This comes at a time when the economy is very unpredictable. This situation stresses on the legislatures since they have to consider many factors and make major predictions of the economy, which is bound to change drastically (Snell 13). Most states have moved to annual sessions due to the challenges presented by biennial budgeting. With only 60 days allocated for budgeting for two years and the large size of the State of Texas, the lawmakers face the challenge of erroneous budgeting.
To the people of Texas, it is an advantage because it gives an opportunity to Texans who have bills to present to do research and consult where necessary to present a well-detailed proposal. During this time, a feasibility analysis and strategic plans can be forged (Snell 13). Also, Texans have to wait for two years to have essential bills and amendments passed or debated. Some of these budgetary bills hurt the people once they are enacted. The people of Texas have to endure it for the next two years. There is a huge problem on the budget and its allocations since it is prepared on a biennial basis. This means that any miscalculation or a forgotten distribution will see Texans who are the taxpayers, subjected to constrained resources until the next allocation (Levinson 16). For this reason, it is not fair considering the current trends in the world market which contribute to issues such as inflation and other economic shortcomings (McNicholas, Phil, and Nicholas 43). These trends make it hard to make estimations for a single year and Texans have to work with the same budget for two years.
Many of the bills are not fully discussed; others overlooked due to time constraints. Handling a two-year backlog of bills and a budget to go with within a period of 140 days proves difficult for the legislature thus leading to omission or negligence of bills that are important to Texans since the legislature does not have enough time (Levinson 16). It would be ideal to structure the constitution in such a way that it allows for the assembly to at least meet annually so that they can have time to deliberate on these bills and deal with what concerns the taxpayer directly. It makes no sense to pay tax and yet have no say on how the same money is spent (Pollack and Richard 650). Texas being a huge state with a versatile population has a big fast growing economy, and therefore, it is only fair to have annual budgets that will cater for the changing times. Besides, the timeframe is a hindrance to investors looking to venture into the market in a case where there is an existing establishment that desires some changes that affect their business.
Therefore, having the first 60 days to address the budget is both an advantage and a disadvantage to the people of Texas and the legislatures. The disadvantages seem to outweigh the merits of the system. This factor could be associated with the large size of the State of Texas placing a requirement for it to have a system that will allow for annual budgeting. The public seems to be more disadvantaged by the system, and though they appear to advocate for this system, they need to be aware of its disadvantages and support a change.
Hou, Yilin, and Daniel L. Smith. "A framework for understanding state balanced budget requirement systems: Reexamining distinctive features and an operational definition." Public Budgeting & Finance 26.3 (2006): 22-45.
Levinson, Arik. "Balanced budgets and business cycles: Evidence from the states." National Tax Journal (1998): 715-732.
McNichol, Elizabeth, Phil Oliff, and Nicholas Johnson. "States continue to feel recession’s impact." Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 9 (2011).
Pollack, Harold, and Richard Zeckhauser. "Budgets as dynamic gatekeepers." Management Science 42.5 (1996): 642-658.
Snell, Ron. “State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting.” National Conference of State Legislatures. 2011.
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