A state lawmaker today highlighted the importance of studying and improving the legislative budget process.

If approved by legislative leaders, two studies requested by state Rep. Joe Dorman will delve into improvements to the state budget process and the use of agency carryover funds.

Dorman has asked Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston L. Doerflinger and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones to participate in the proposed studies if they are approved.

“These are important issues that transcend political stripe or branch of government. I’m more than happy to participate if and when these discussions occur,” said Doerflinger, who is also director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the state’s central finance agency.

Dorman, who is in his final term as a legislator, said improving the budget process, particularly through concepts like zero-based budgeting, has been brought up in discussions among lawmakers year after year, but never seriously studied.

“Zero-based and target-based budgeting have been discussed for over 20 years, yet nothing has been done to dig deeper into individual agency reviews over that time,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “This is not political to want to know more about how the taxpayers’ money is spent; it is responsible and prudent.”

Doerflinger said the current budget process leaves much to be desired.

“The state budget puts too much emphasis on a deranged annual dance of cumbersome processes and arbitrary figure-chasing. Budget builders should be less like farmhands sloppily filling a trough and more like dieticians prescribing the best regimen for success,” Doerflinger said.

Questions about how agencies should use carryover funds or monies in certain agency accounts have also arisen in recent years.

“It’s important that the state differentiate between legitimate carryovers by wise financial managers and unnecessary carryovers by packrat bureaucrats,” Doerflinger said.

Dorman said state lawmakers must keep closer watch of carryover funds.

“If an agency has a valid reason to carry over funds, we should know the reason,” said Dorman. “If they are simply stockpiling funds, this hurts other agencies which might be experiencing a shortfall.”