Gubernatorial Impoundment: An Implied Solution for a Budgeting Challenge

By Zachary Blair

In recent years, states have had to make drastic cuts to their budgets even as the economy flourished in the wake of the Great Recession. The task of balancing state budgets has always been a formidable one, but recent shifts in revenue sources and their ability to generate reliable funding have made this challenge increasingly common and difficult. Historically, states have viewed budget balancing as a fundamentally legislative obligation and prerogative, which is often delegated to the executive branch in the form of impoundment statutes because of the executive’s superior budgeting capabilities.

In several states, however, the legislature has either kept the power to balance the budget for itself or has delegated insufficient discretion to the executive, hampering the state’s ability to meet its constitutional obligation to balance the budget. Consequently, this Note presents an alternative interpretation of the power to impound. It conceives of impoundment as a shared constitutional power exercisable by either the executive or legislature that can be constrained by statute. This interpretation permits the executive to better leverage its strengths in fiscal matters to resolve budget deficits quickly and efficiently, ensuring that the state meets its constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

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