What is a fiscal note?
A fiscal note estimates the costs, savings, revenue gain, or revenue loss resulting from the implementation of proposed legislation. It serves as a tool to help legislators better understand how a bill might impact the state budget as a whole, individual agencies and, in some instances, local governments.
Fiscal notes prepared by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) are required under House and Senate rules for any bill or joint resolution that authorizes or requires the expenditure or diversion of any state funds for any purpose. The rules also require that any bill or joint resolution that has a statewide impact on units of local government and which authorizes or diverts local funds or fees must have a fiscal note. Under specified circumstances, an impact statement is also required in addition to the fiscal note.
House and Senate Rules direct the LBB to prepare several types of impact statements in addition to fiscal notes. Under Senate Rules, the Director of the LBB determines whether an impact statement is required. Under House Rules, the committee chair makes that determination. Other differences between the Senate and House rules are noted below.
Criminal Justice Impact Statements, which provide estimates of changes in prison capacity, are necessary if a bill changes sanctions applicable to adults convicted of felony crimes. Under Senate Rules, these impact statements also apply to juvenile justice bills.
Equalized Education Funding Impact Statements provide an analysis of the equity implications associated with a change in state aid to school districts under the Foundation School Program. These are necessary if a bill proposes to change the school funding formulas.
Actuarial Impact Statements provide estimates of changes in public pension funds. The LBB is responsible for the production of these impact statements, although the Pension Review Board„which prepared similar impact statements prior to the 74th Legislative Session„remains an important source of information.
Water Development Policy Impact Statements are required only under House Rules. These estimates of changes resulting from the creation of a water district were prepared by the LBB for the first time during the 74th Legislative Session. They were previously prepared by the Water Development Board, which remains an important source of information.
Higher Education Impact Statements are required only under Senate Rules. They provide an estimate of the implications resulting from creating or changing the classification, mission, or governance of an institution of higher education.
Distribution of Fiscal Notes
Fiscal notes are delivered directly to the requesting committee's chair or clerk. This is usually accomplished via the LBB's Automated Fiscal Note System. An electronic copy of the fiscal note will also be forwarded to the author and sponsor of the bill or resolution.
Fiscal notes and related information are made available to the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, Governor, and Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The fiscal note file is an open public record. Requests for copies of fiscal notes are referred to committee clerks. It is the policy of the LBB to require a written request for the release of any fiscal note information, except requests from legislative staff or state agencies.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fiscal Notes
1. Who can request a fiscal note?
Under House rules, the committee chair is responsible for requesting a fiscal note. Under Senate rules, fiscal notes are required for all bills. An author or sponsor may not request a fiscal note unless he or she is the chair of the committee to which that bill is referred.
2. Is there an alternate way to receive an estimate for proposed Legislation other than through a fiscal note?
The LBB will prepare a letter of estimate as time and resources permit. Generally, the LBB does not prepare letters of estimate during the legislative session. The LBB will not prepare letters of estimate on proposed legislation for anyone other than the bill's author.
3. What is the distinction between "No Fiscal Implication" and "No Significant Fiscal Implication?"
The term "No Fiscal Implication" means that implementing the provisions of the bill will not require any additional resources from the state, nor will there be any state revenue impact. "No Significant Fiscal Implication" means that the change in resources necessary to implement a program is insignificant relative to the budget of an affected agency and could be reasonably absorbed within an agency's current appropriation level.
4. If an agency submits information regarding a bill's impact, is the LBB obligated to use that data?
No. The LBB uses the information it believes to be most accurate and reliable and is not obligated to use agency estimates of costs, impacts, caseloads, etc.
5. Do fiscal notes reflect costs to state funds only, or do they reflect costs to the Texas economy as whole?
Fiscal note estimates only address the direct effect a bill would have on state government expenditures or revenues.
6. What is the baseline for preparing fiscal note estimates?
Fiscal note estimates are based on law in effect at that time the estimates are produced, and on the Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE). The fiscal note estimates assume that no changes will be made to law other than those resulting from the bill's implementation. They further assume that the BRE will remain unchanged.