An Overview of the Budget Process

(June 21, 2024)

Every year, the budget and appropriations process moves (almost) like clockwork. There are certain steps that we can expect to occur as each level of government moves through its own process to fund numerous crucial programs, projects, lifelines, and other items that you and others utilize every day.

The overall steps are the same at each level – the Executive Branch (President, Governor, County Executive) proposes a budget with funding amounts for all discretionary government programs. The legislative branch (Congress, General Assembly, County Council) actually appropriates (funds) the budget items, the Executive Branch signs the budget into law, and the agencies (Dept. of Education, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Human Services, etc.) distribute the funds.

At the state and federal levels, the Governor/President release their budgets in the winter, but that is where the similarities end. In Pennsylvania the fiscal year is July 1 – June 30 and the federal fiscal calendar runs from Oct. 1- Sept. 30. Allegheny County’s fiscal year is a calendar year – Jan 1 – Dec. 31, and the County Executive will release her budget for 2025 in October. For this article, I’ll focus on the timing of the state budget.

Regardless of which step of the budget process you are at while advocating, be sure you are prepared to make a strong case. Do your homework and learn how state funding impacts your program, what could be done with additional funding, and any facts/stories/additional information that helps support your case. Remember – you are the expert. Allies for Children’s team is always here to help you become a great advocate.

Late Fall

In Harrisburg, the budget process kicks off in the fall when state agencies submit their Program Revision Requests (PRR) – PRRs are submitted to support new programs or increases/major changes in existing programs. During this process, departments will start to look at the needs within existing programs, new initiatives proposed by the administration, and begin to develop funding requests to submit to the budget office with the hopes of being included in the Governor’s budget proposal.

Advocacy Opportunity: You can begin to advocate for increases in funding by meeting with department leaders to encourage them to include increases for your program in a PRR. This is also your opportunity to talk through any regulatory challenges you are encountering and provide your thoughts on how to improve the program.


In Pennsylvania, you can usually set your calendar to the first Tuesday in February as Budget Day! This is the day that the Governor releases his budget proposal. This budget outlines the specific allocations he wants to see the General Assembly appropriate for the upcoming fiscal year. This is also the time where the Governor will showcase any new initiatives and programs that they plan to launch – if funding is allocated to the program. The Governor delivers his Budget Address where he highlights the themes and issues that his administration is prioritizing through key investments in his budget proposal.

Advocacy Opportunity: This is the time for you to respond to the Governor’s proposal. How would these investments (or lack of) help or hurt your program? Now is the time to start conducting research on the impact of the Governor’s proposed investment. When ready, share results with the Governor’s office and your legislators. If you are advocating for school funding – the Department of Education will have spreadsheets that show the impact by school district.


After the governor releases his budget, the General Assembly begins to have hearings in committees to learn more about the proposed budget and its impact. During these hearings, Secretaries will go before appropriate committees (i.e. Dept. of Education Secretary will testify before the Education Committees in both the House and Senate) and answer questions related to the Governor’s budget. There are two purposes to these hearings: 1. To gather additional information on why the governor is choosing to invest or not to invest in certain programming; and 2. For legislators to grandstand on issues that are of particular interest to them.

Advocacy Opportunity: Ask your legislator to ask a question on your issue. If your legislator is on a committee where the agency head will testify on an issue that is important to you, craft a question on your issue and ask your legislator to ask it during the hearing. If your legislator asks the question, be sure to thank them and follow up with the agency secretary offering your expertise as a resource for additional information on the program/issue you care about.


Budget Time! This is where things start heating up! As the two chambers begin negotiating budget numbers and other related and unrelated policy, more and more advocates begin visiting the Capitol and advocating for funding increases and policy change. In theory this should be the time that the House and Senate are going back and forth on specific funding allocations. However, more often than not, only a few legislators are the ones actually deciding what the funding amounts will be – typically leaders in the House and Senate and members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Non-leadership members still have opportunities to weigh-in as they negotiate votes within each party’s caucus for enough votes to pass the budget.

As a reminder – in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the final budget is due on June 30, as the new fiscal year begins on July 1. However, this timeline is not always followed by our legislators. The budget can be delayed with the only true consequences being to the programs and the people who rely on those state programs. During a budget impasse, legislators still get paid, but schools, home visiting, infrastructure, human services programs, and other key programs that are funded through the state do not receive their funds until the budget and accompanying fiscal code are finalized.

When the final budget is negotiated, approved by both chambers, and finalized with the Governor’s signature, it will also need a fiscal code bill to accompany it. This code bill provides specific instructions on how the funding will be spent. During the budget process in 2023, the budget allocations were approved, but the fiscal code bill wasn’t approved until later, which delayed the distribution of state funds to programs.

Advocacy Opportunity: This is the key time to make your voice heard. You will see all organizations who advocate for state funding raising the alarm for their advocates to reach out to legislators and ask for increases in funding. During this time of year, legislators are also moving non-budget related legislation, so many advocates are also advocating on policy change, along with increased investments. To help ensure that your message is not lost, it is important that you work on developing a relationship with your legislator’s office all throughout the year. That way, when this crucial moment is here, you are ready to act and your legislator is ready to listen. Regardless of the relationship you have, you can always call your legislator’s office – yes, calling is still the most effective way – and ask your legislator to support your program. Remember, legislators work for you! You got this!

See our previous blog for an overview of the 2024-25 budget that the General Assembly is currently working on: Thoughts on Gov. Shapiro’s Proposed 2024-25 Budget

Jamie Baxter, Allies for Children Executive Director