This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
Unformatted text preview: d, 1997). Development
of block grants for welfare (the TANF program), with considerable independence for state governments to operate the
program, was widely touted as evidence of the decentralization. However, the program represented a very small
component of both federal and state budgets. In total, Kincaid noted that only 15 of 618 federal categorical grant
programs in 1995 were block grants, and even these included significant controls over state and local behavior.
Some have expressed concern that greater decentralization will result in less uniformity across the U.S. (for example,
Kincaid, 1997). It is true that greater diversity in service delivery is a likely outcome of decentralization, but this is the
intent. Decentralization is not only expected to allow advantages in terms of administering programs at the sub-national
level, but to allow sub-national control over the types of services offered and to permit experimentation on the best ways
to deliver services. These advantages can only be realized if the potential for diversity across states is permitted, and
indeed, expected. 24 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance FORCES BEHIND CENTRALIZATION AND DECENTRALIZATION
IN THE UNITED STATES
By Bruce A. Wallin
Over its more than two hundred years of history, the relationship between the national and state governments in the
United States has been on the one hand stable, mostly due to Constitutional specifications, but at the same time fluid,
the result of political and institutional dynamics. In the earliest years state and local governments were primary in the
federation. Then national government power grew in spurts in the nineteenth century, and rose fairly consistently and
dramatically as the twentieth century progressed. Toward the end of that era, the pendulum began to swing back toward
the states, and in some ways continues to do so today.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss this ebb and flow of intergovernmental relations in the United States. It will begin
by discussing the nation’s founding and the eventual growth of national government power, much of it facilitated by use
of intergovernmental aid. A review of the system that emerged by the 1960s and 1970s will be followed by a discussion
of the criticism that a more centralized system provoked, and the subsequent movement, both explicit and implicit,
toward decentralization. I will argue that while decentralization of decision-making from the federal government to state
and local governments has garnered increased attention, explicit federal government policy shifts have not matched the
rhetoric. The state and local government role has increased, however, due to their willingness to increase own source
The paper will conclude with brief observations on the treatment of fiscal imbalance in the US federal system, and on the
mechanisms available for mediating differences of opinion between national and state governments. 1. THE FOUNDING AND SUBSEQUENT GROWTH OF NATIONAL POWER The United States fought its revolutionary war in response to domination by a government deemed too far removed and
out of touch with the needs of its citizens – a ch...
View Full Document