Governors, Legislatures, and Budgets: Diversity across the American States

By Edward J. Clynch; Thomas P. Lauth | Go to book overview
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Conclusion: Budgeting in the American States--Conflict and Diversity

EDWARD J. CLYNCH AND THOMAS P. LAUTH

This volume provides the contextual information that allows us to assess the distribution of executive-legislative influence over budget decisions. It also helps us understand the nature of state fiscal conditions in the 1980s and to discern the impact of this dimension on gubernatorial and legislative budgetary power. Finally, the assortment of patterns reported here allows us to develop general classifications of states operating within the diversity of a federal system.


EXECUTIVE-LEGISLATIVE POWER EBB AND FLOW

The executive-centered "movement" implies unidirectional change, with the governor acquiring more power at the expense of the legislature. In reality, the sharing of authority not only keeps one branch from dominating the other, but also allows power to flow in both directions. At the same time, the built-in advantages of ongoing programs negate dramatic budget changes resulting from shifts of power between the governor and lawmakers. Over the last fifty years, budget scholars have reminded us that this year's budget closely resembles last year's budget. The current service base serves as a strong incremental force in most states. Inflation eats into any fiscal dividend and reduces the funds available for new spending initiatives since inflation escalates the cost of existing activities.

Despite the short-term bias toward incrementalism, changes in budget procedures that reconfigure the power of governors and legislatures carry long-term implications for budget decision making. Many states increased the governor's leverage over budget decisions by giving the chief executive the role of budget assembler and forcing the legislature into the role of budget reactor. The progression from legislative dominance to gubernatorial primacy outlined in the Illinois chapter has occurred in many other states. Many governors occupy the central place among budgeting players. This fulfills the majoritarian democracy objective described by Willoughby and others: An official chosen by the entire electorate possesses the tools to shape budget decisions. Recent trends in the

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