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Budgetary Politics in American Governments.

This book offers an introduction to the theories, processes, constraints and challenges of public budgeting. It highlights decision making, taxing and spending, budget execution, financial management, patterns of stability and change, and the "domino effect" of state and federal budgeting on local entities.

Positioning budgeting at the heart of public policy making, this text dispels the old notion of public budgeting as simply "numbers crunching." Instead, it stresses the budget's significance in allocating resources, establishing policies and priorities, highlighting political relationships and conflicts, and ensuring financial accountability.

Discussion of budget theories, analysis and systems includes the history, popularity and current usage of decision items, serial budgeting, macro and micro budgeting, program budgeting and zero-based budgeting. Other topics explored are taxing and spending among governments, economic theories and their significance on the national scene, the history of comparative government spending since the early 1900s, and types of tax revenues and user fees, along with criteria for evaluating their use.

Each level of government--national, state and local--has a chapter devoted to its unique budgeting problems and processes. In the federal chapter the overall failure of the system and the tug-of-war between Congress and the White House, the role of the Office of Management and Budget, and the budget summit technique employed by the current administration are explored.

The chapter on state budgeting provides information on the budget process, federal support for many expensive social programs, the governor's power using the executive budget and line-item vetoes, the role of state budget offices and the increasing influence of state legislatures in the budget process.

Budgeting at the local level focuses primarily on the loss of federal aid, taxpayer revolts and state-imposed limitations on taxing and spending. While acknowledging local governments' capacity to become more self-reliant and seek out new sources of revenue, this chapter does not describe the process, actors or their political/reporting relationships with the same depth accorded state budgeting. Given the sheer numbers of local governments, in-depth analyses would be difficult, if not impossible, to present. However, some discussion of their special problems would be helpful.

The "fish bowl" nature of local government bugeting--with its high degree of local press and public scrutiny--is one of the topics meriting attention. The role of citizens is noted in this chapter, but their involvement on committees and boards is not fully explored, especially as they advocate specific programs and services, proposing alternatives to the chief executive's budget.

Finally, only cities and counties are noted in the context of local budgeting, with other local units--most notably school districts--going without mention, despite the fact that elementary and secondary education are both noted as major budgetary challenges of the 1990s.

Among the final chapters, budget execution and financial management takes the reader beyond budget adoption, outlining various techniques and controls used to assure proper expenditure of public monies. Revenue projections, mid-year adjustments, pre- and postaudit controls, cash management practices, capital finance and debt management are all given attention. Improvements in financial management, especially at the federal level, also are outlined in this chapter.

Forecasting significant issues and challenges in public budgeting rounds out the text, with federal budgetary reform taking center stage. Major program challenges for the 1990s, such as Medicaid, primary and secondary education, and corrections, also receive attention. Lastly, a glossary and index are provided for the reader.

Students and new practitioners should find this book a helpfull introduction with sufficient information on budgeting at all levels of government to guide them in further study.

Available for $22.75 from Longman Publishing Group, 95 Church Street, White Plains, NY 10601 (800/447-2226).
COPYRIGHT 1992 Government Finance Officers Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stephani, Ann D.
Publication:Government Finance Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Words:597
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