Wonky Word Wednesdays – Decision Package

Last week we discussed base budget. This is the starting point for building a state budget. Then the Legislature must decide what else to fund – these are called decision packages and that is this week’s wonky word. But just like last week, to explain decision package, we will need to explain a few more wonky words at the same time.

Let’s start with an equation like last week.

Building the State Budget = Base Budget + Present Law Adjustments (PLA) + New Proposals (NP)

What does present law mean?

Montana statute defines present law as the level of funding needed under current law to maintain operations and services at the level authorized by the last legislature. Some examples of present law adjustments are:

  • Changes to legally-required caseload – such as more students enrolled or increased number of prison inmates.
  • Changes because of statutory schedules or formulas – for example the school funding formula has yearly funding increases written into law
  • Inflationary adjustments – these would be increases in utilities, food or travel costs 

What are new proposals?

New Proposals is relatively self-explanatory. It is defined in law as “requests to provide new nonmandated services to change program services, to eliminate existing services, or to change sources of funding.”

So now that we know what present law adjustments and new proposals are we arrive at our official wonky word – decision package. Each PLA or NP is a decision package (DP). During the budget process, each DP is given a number. When the governor assembles the budget he or she accepts, rejects, or modifies each decision package presented by the state agencies. The appropriations committee then can also accept, reject, or modify each DP from the Governor’s budget.

With school back in session, next we will begin a four part series on school funding wonky words. Do you have suggestions? Let us know by posting to our Facebook page.

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