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The Politics of Public Budgeting

The Politics of Public Budgeting
Getting and Spending, Borrowing and Balancing

Ninth Edition

February 2019 | 408 pages | CQ Press
Using a “power struggles” theme to examine the dynamics of budgeting, The Politics of Public Budgeting shines a bright light on the political jockeying between interest groups, parties, officials, policymakers, and the public. Bestselling author Irene S. Rubin explains budgeting changes over time by setting issues like the federal deficit and health care expenditures in political and comparative context. The Ninth Edition offers students recent examples of public budgeting from all levels of government, emphasizing the relationship among them. Analyzing each strand of the decision-making process, Rubin shows the extraordinary coordination involved in passing a budget and achieving accountability.
CHAPTER 1: The Politics of Public Budgets
What is Budgeting?  
Governmental Budgeting  
Minicase: City Manager Replies to Scathing Budget Critique  
Minicase: Missouri Constitutional Amendment Reduces Governor's Powers  
Minicase: Young Protesters in Court  
Minicase: The Courts and New Jersey Pension Reform  
Minicase: The Federal Debt Limit as a Constraint  
Minicase: Highly Constrained Budgeting-Colorado's TABOR Amendment  
The Meaning of Politics in Public Budgeting  
Budgetary Decision Making  
Microbudgeting and Macrobudgeting  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 2: Revenue Politics
Raising Taxes  
Minicase: Supermajorities to Raise Taxes  
Minicase: Louisiana - Getting Around the No Tax Increase Pledge  
Minicase: A Tax Increase in Philadelphia  
The Politics of Protection  
Minicase: Wisconsin and UnexaminedTax Breaks  
Minicase: Illinois and the Role of the Press  
Minicase: Tax Breaks for Hedge Fund Managers  
Minicase: California and Enterprise Zone Tax Breaks  
Minicase: North Carolina and Business Tax Breaks  
Minicase: Michigan - Terminating its Film Subsidy  
Minicase: New Mexico and Tax Expenditure Reporting  
Tax Reform  
Minicase: Georgia Tax Reform Left Hanging  
Minicase: Michigan Tax Reform or Class Warfare?  
Minicase: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Is it a Tax Reform?  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 3: The Politics of Process
Budget Process and the Characteristics of Public Budgeting  
Minicase: Harrisburg - Whose Priorities Dominate?  
Designing Process to Achieve Policy and Political Goals  
Macro- and Micropolitics  
Minicase: Republican Macrolevel Reform Proposals  
Minicase: Micropolitics - Bending the Rules to Win Individual Decisions  
Minicase: How the Governor's Veto is Used  
Variation between and among Federal, State, and Local Governments  
Minicase: Maine - The Governor versus the Legislature  
Minicase: Limits of Governor's Vetoes in New Mexico  
Minicase: San Diego - Fiscal Problems, Strong Mayor, and Veto Powers  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 4: The Dynamics of Changing Budget Processes
Minicase: New York State - Powerful Governor, Weak Legislature, Informal Budgeting  
Minicase: The Governor versus the Courts  
Federal Budget Process Changes  
Minicase: Deeming Resolutions and Ad Hoc Budgeting  
Minicase: Ad Hoc Scoring Rule  
Minicase: Overseas Contingency Operations  
Minicase: Budget Process Reform 2018?  
Changes in Budget Process at the State Level  
Minicase: Maryland's Legislative Budget Power  
Minicase: South Carolina's Legislatively Dominated Budget Process Begins to Budge  
Minicase: The Executive and the Legislature in Florida's Budgeting  
Changes in Budget Process at the Local Level  
Minicase: Florida and Unfunded Mandates  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 5: Expenditures: Strategies, Structures, and the Environment
Minicase: A $17,000 Drip Plan  
Minicase: Homeland Security - A Program Tied to a Goal of Unlimited Worth  
Minicase: Amtrak Train Wreck  
Minicase: Congressional Budget Office and Scoring  
Minicase: Budgetary Implications of Direct College Loans versus Loan Guarantees  
Minicase: An Open-Ended Discretionary Program - Immigration Enforcement  
Minicase: Trump, Immigration Enforcement, and the Threat of Grant Denial  
Minicase: California and Mandatory Spending on Redevelopment Agencies  
Minicase: Fannie and Freddie: Government Bailout, a Loan or Investment?  
Minicase: New Jersey's Fund Diversion from the Unemployment Insurance Fund  
The Environment  
Strategy, Structure, and Environment Combined: The Medicare Example  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 6: The Politics of Balancing the Budget
Defining the Balance Constraint  
Minicase: Was the Wisconsin Budget Balanced?  
Minicase: Balance in the Federal Highway Trust Fund  
Minicase: Illinois Funds Sweep  
Multiple Actors, Ideologies, and Deficits  
The Environment, Unpredictability, and Deficits  
Increasing Stress between Payer and Decider  
Minicase: Chicago's Parking Meters  
Minicase: Iowa's Privatization of Medicaid  
The Politics of Deficits: The Federal Level  
The Politics of Deficits: States  
Minicase: Detroit Bankruptcy  
Minicase: Why Did Jefferson Country, Alabama Declare Bankruptcy  
The Politics of Balance in Cities  
Minicase: The Politics of Deficits - An Urban Example  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 7: Budget Execution: The Politics of Adaptation
Tools for Changing the Budget  
Minicase: Policy Deferrals in the Department of State  
Minicase: Using Holdback to Change Legislative Priorities: Maryland  
Minicase: Herbert Hoover and Legislative Vetoes  
Minicase: The National Weather Services Programming  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 8: Controlling Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
Minicase: Congressional Oversight and the Zombie Apocalypse  
Inspectors General  
The Politics of Finding Waste, Fraud, and Abuse  
Minicase: Louisiana Inspector General  
Minicase: President Obama Fires and IG  
Minicase: Who Guards the Guards? Not the Guards Themselves  
Minicase: Acting IG for Homeland Security - Too Close to the Department  
Minicase: New York State and Medicaid  
Minicase: The Massachusetts Inspector General Versus the Governor  
Minicase: Baltimore's Departing IG  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  
CHAPTER 9: Budgetary Decision Making and Politics
Real-Time Budgeting  
A Comparison of the Decision-Making Streams  
Common Themes  
Reconceptualizing Reform  
Avenues for Research  
Summary and Conclusions  
Useful Websites  

“The greatest strength [in the text] is the inclusion of politics in the budgeting process, which is a key element that is often overlooked or understated in other budgeting books.”

Joseph Martin, JD, MPA
University of Missouri

“[The Politics of Public Budgeting] discusses the impact of separation of payer and deicer, multiple actors, and openness to the environment.”

Sharon K. Vaughn
Western Kentucky University
Key features


Recent examples illustrate how relevant the politics of public budgeting is to understanding the headlines, such as:

  • President Trump’s decision to use the defense budget to send the national guard to the border after Congress failed to approve funding for a wall
  • State governors’ decisions on whether their national guard units would cooperate with the federal immigration officials, how many troops they would commit, and what they would be tasked with doing
  • The different “spins” democrats and republicans used to explain why the balanced budget amendment to the Constitution failed to reach the required two-thirds majority

New topical discussions examine recent successes and failures of federal, state, and local governments. Some questions that are explored include:

  • What is the difference between successful and unsuccessful tax reform efforts?
  • What is an effective balance between executive and legislative budget power and how can it be achieved?  
  • What are the options for controlling waste, fraud, and abuse, and what are the best structures and legal foundations for such efforts?
  • In budget implementation, how flexible should the budget be during the budget year or biennium?     


  • Provides lively, current examples which illustrate basic democratic processes both when they work and when they don't
  • Discusses controversial issues and challenges which provide students with a broader perspective of issues from all sides
  • Illustrates the politics that occur at each stage of the budgeting process, including budget implementation, for a deeper understanding of the material

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ISBN: 9781544325057