Thursday, September 9, 2010

Move to Counterbalance Budget Office

Lawmakers have vowed to create a new legislative fiscal office by the end of the month.
The new legislative office, sort of the state version of the Congressional Budget Office, would serve as a counterbalance to the governor’s Office of the Budget, which sets the revenue estimates spending plans are based on.
Republican Senator Pat Browne of Lehigh County says the new department would provide an independent set of numbers, so the executive branch doesn’t drive the conversation during budget negotiations.
He says lawmakers are working out the details of the measure before the House and Senate return later this month.

"The one, I guess, major issue that’s trying to be worked out is its authority to set the commonwealth’s revenue estimate. Right now the language is that it would be the body that would be charged with setting the revenue estimate for both the legislative and the executive branches."

Browne says the office could also help guide budget talks.

"This is purely outside those negotiations, so it leads to more of a third-party objective source to make the process more accountable. And actually, more efficient, because you’d have an external review of the performance and the efficiency of programs, which could allow us to make better decisions."

Browne says some legislators aren’t comfortable with giving the new office so much power. As a compromise, the Legislative Fiscal Office and the executive branch could work together to set the revenue estimate. The measure has been a top priority for Senate Republicans all year.

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