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Unformatted text preview: s characterized by deference to substantive expertise and previous allocations. The organizationbased approach to the development of budget theory focuses on how the nature of the public organization affects the resource allocation process and how the nature of the resource allocation process affects the operations of the public organization.
10 Classic Budget Theories Political scientists typically approach public agencies as atomistic political actors in the policy making process, and the organizational dimensions of agency functioning are usually ignored. The less ambitious management school focuses on the relative utility of alternative budget formats, and on the place of analytical techniques and formal policy planning in the budget process.
The prescriptions written from the management orientation are only occasionally based on descriptive or explanatory studies associated with any of the three perspectives. The management perspective is the one most clearly associated with public administration. 11 11 Classic Budget Theories
Budgeting is approached as a technical process, and public administrators are cast as technicians apart from the organizations in which they work. Theoreticians are able to avoid value issues through this separation, but the development of theory is constrained by the question that has dogged the field from its beginnings: technical efficiency for what end? One of the reasons that budget theory prescriptions (state and local) have been divorced from budget theory descriptions (Federal) is that most of the latter have been based on studies of the federal budget process, and adoption of the former has been more wide
spread at the state and local level. 12 12 Classic Budget Theories any descriptive theory of budgeting derived from analysis of the federal process will be of limited relevance to the state and local level. However, state and local budget processes differ widely (Hackbart and Carson,1993) and, hence, those areas appear to be less promising ones for the development of a single theory of public budgeting than the national budget process. The “grandness” of the theory derived from a focus on the federal government, however, is ultimately dimmed by its limited generalizability to other levels of government.
13 13 Classic Budget Theories The conceptual fragmentation that characterizes budget theory reflects the multidimensional nature of the subject, the variety of approaches brought to bear on it and the fragmented structure of the field of public administration in general. Indeed, some theorists view budgeting, itself, as a distinct discipline from which public administration borrows and in which it tinkers. The perspectives and findings of a range of related disciplines regarding a variety of relevant phenomena are imported by public administration but never synthesized to form a unique theoretical perspective. The management perspective on budget theory that public administration calls its own fails to address the allocative efficiency concerns of the economists, the related political issue of distributional equity, or the challenge to the relevancy of analysis posed by the 14
incrementalist model. Classic Budget Theories These value issues are those that public administration avoids by focusing on techniques rather than on the demands of the environments and the nature of the organizations in which they are employed—that is, on the context of public management. The fact that budget reforms have been widely adopted by state and local governments (Rubin, 1990) may be quite beside the crucial point: do they help, and what do they help one do?
From the perspective of the practicing public administrator, resource allocation processes serve to create and continuously recreate the public organization.
15 15 Classic Budget Theories Incrementalism might be considered the grandparent of budget theory. As has been noted elsewhere, many public administration students and scholars can peg their matriculation in public affairs programs to the Politics of the Budgeting Process or one of its succeeding editions, a work thought to be the exemplar of incrementalist thinking. Indeed, for many, budget theory, incrementalism, and Aaron Wildavsky are nearly synonymous.
16 16 Classic Budget Theories Incremental budgeting models employ past budget decisions as independent variables; Symbolically, simple incremental models take the basic form Y = bX + e where Y is a current budget decision, X is a previous budget decision made within the government, b is a parameter express...
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This note was uploaded on 02/11/2014 for the course MANA 2028 taught by Professor Sisterennis during the Winter '12 term at Marquette.
- Winter '12