Determinants of Perceived Gubernatorial Budgetary Influence among State Executive Budget Analysts and Legislative Fiscal Analysts

By Goodman, Doug | Political Research Quarterly, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Determinants of Perceived Gubernatorial Budgetary Influence among State Executive Budget Analysts and Legislative Fiscal Analysts


Goodman, Doug, Political Research Quarterly


Recent scholarship points to governors losing budgetary influence to legislatures. A survey of executive and legislative budget analysts from thirteen western states is used to test hypotheses derived from Abney and Lauth's theoretical propositions regarding the end of executive dominance over the budgetary process. This article finds that the legislature's ability to independently access budgetary information, a separate legislative budget agenda from the governor, the addition of detailed language in appropriation bills, and consensus revenue forecasting all decrease the likelihood of gubernatorial budgetary influence. Pork barrel additions and the ability to item veto appropriation language increase the likelihood of gubernatorial influence.

Keywords: gubernatorial budgetary powers; governor/legislature budget relations; state government

The budgetary process is a critically important component of executive-legislative relationships. For much of the twentieth century, the executive budget allowed governors to dominate the budgetary process that increased their power and influence. Those who have power can allocate resources (Pfeffer and Salanik 1978). When governors have more influence over the budget, they can prioritize policy preferences and subsequent resource allocation. Likewise, legislators can do the same if they have more influence over the budgetary process.

Institutional rivalries add to the struggle for influence over the budgetary process. Who influences the budgetary process? Are legislatures gaining influence at the expense of governors? Governors and legislatures, in a fight for budgetary influence, utilize budget analysts to justify their allocation priorities, to make the process seem rational, and to make informed decisions (Goodman forthcoming; Goodman and Clynch 2004). Drawing on perceptions of these state institutional actors-who are embedded in the state budgetary process-can help scholars and political actors better understand executive/legislative budgetary influence and relationships. Simply stated, this article analyzes budgetary "gatekeepers' " perceptions about gubernatorial influence in the budgetary process while empirically assessing Abney and Lauth's (1998) theoretical propositions concerning the loss of gubernatorial budgetary influence.

Power Struggles between Governors and Legislatures over Budgets

From the earliest inceptions, the budget is essentially supposed to be an executive tool (Cleveland 1915). Preparation by the executive is paramount, since the executive is an individual who acting alone can consolidate decisions into a single document and present it to the legislature for approval. Moreover, the executive theoretically represents all of the people and is not as parochially minded as legislators who serve smaller constituencies. Classic reformers such as Frederick Cleveland, William Willoughby, and Frank Goodnow believed it was the job of chief executives to set policies and priorities. They believed legislatures should oversee the executive branch and "tinker" with proposed expenses, but "to set expenditure priorities" was not their job (Clynch and Lauth 1991, 2).

Studies during the past four decades have produced a laundry list of variables that point to gubernatorial influence or legislative influence over the budgetary process (Dometrius and Wright 2004; Abney and Lauth, 1987, 1998; Clarice 1998; Rosenthal 1990; Thompson 1987; Dumcombe and Kinney 1987; Dumcombe and Kinney 1986; Gosling 1985). During the course of the twentieth century, the major locus of the budgetary process shifted to the executive branch and to governors in all but a few states. By the 1960s, governors in most states were major players in the budgetary process. When considering agency requests, governors' recommendations were clearly more important to the legislature than the agency's acquisitiveness. Legislatures rarely appropriated money to an agency above the governor's recommendation (Sharkansky 1968).

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