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RubinsTextP1 - 3 The Politics of Process If the budget...

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Unformatted text preview: 3 . The Politics of Process If the budget process is to produce anything, it mustpraduce honesty. Only then will the American people learn of and support the difficult choices the Congress and the President must make to restore fiscal discipline. «Sen. John Exon The budget process divides up the work of budgetary decision making, assigns particular decisions to particular actors or groups of actors, and coordinates the decision making among them. The budget process sets the rules, determines the parameters of time and money within which the deliberations will take place, and selects the options that will be compared. It also determines the level of com— petition among agencies and constituencies for governmental resources. z The budget process is important because it indirectly influences policy out- comes and directly influences the distribution of political power. In terms of pol— icy, process can make it more or less difficult to spend public money to solve collective problems, to balance the budget, to make long‘term investments, or to borrow money. The budget process may tilt toward lower taxes and a smaller scope of government or toward higher taxes and more publicly provided goods and services. The budget process may influence who benefits from lower taxes or decisions to spend more. In terms of the distribution of power, budget process can give one group of actors a veto over the decisions of other actors; it can be inclusive of new groups or reinforce the power of long-entrenched groups; it can facilitate democratic participation or strengthen authoritarian regimes. Budget process directly affects the distribution of power between and within the exec— utive and legislative branches of government and between government and the 72 The Politics of Process 73 ., ,Minicase: California’s Late Budgets and Dysfunctional hudget Rules ' In 2008, it was late Septemberbefore California had a budget, many month " " [into the fiscal year. Withouta budget, state employees, contractors, and Men we cannot be paid. Whilethe delay in goflfiwas thel ng i story; late budgets have been chronic in California. Rece have only‘m’ade the problem worse; Qalifornia’s late budgets are-caused by 'abudget pr , s ment that thelegislature pass the budget by a Moathirdsm ] . minor 'ity thus can veto the budget of the majority. Since ' the ‘le‘gis’lature in California has been splitbetween Democrat’sandRepubl‘iéar-i , , “ has been able tags: the necessary twosthirds ,vot ' the other, sometimes a long’and diificult pros: _ ‘- / ,The supermajority requirement, has proved; ifficult ' ha ' c Originally conceived during the Great Depression nd assedlune127 3’3, the rulewas suppOsedito help keep spendingydown, butitha ‘ eff ctive tool for doing so. Sowhy has it been sohard .torernove th pro- visio’n? The answer lies in Who is"_ernpov\iered by'the budg pro party in the minority has somesay on the budgetbecaus ‘ ‘ required for passage; Typically , ' i zationof spending. , ‘ Sources: George Skelton, ‘MOW a Majority Budget Vote,” LusAngeles , _ , _ , September 8, 2008, www.1atimes.corn/newsfla-me-cap$~20035ep08,0,68§2430 ' column (accessed November 14, 2008); Peter,Schrag,‘fSolvmg Sacra‘rnento‘s, Budget Gridlock,” Las Angeles Times, September 18, 2008, wwwlatimes._com/ _ news/opinion/la~oe»schragl84008561918,0,2461635istory; Evan Helper and _, Jordan Ran, “Schwarzenegger, Top Legislators, Reach a Budget Deal,” Las Angeles "'Timfs. September, 19, 2008. ' ‘ * ’ * « ' public, both as individuals and as organized interests. For a glimpse of how even technical process rules influence outcomes and affect the distribution of power, see the minicase on California’s late budgets, above. The budget process is often a key instrument of democratic participation and accountability. The openness of the decision making, the responsiveness of the process to democratically determined priorities, and the quality of reporting on ...
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