Spring 1999

OUTLINE OF PPA 230/Public Budgeting and Finance
Graduate Program in Public Policy, Administration & International Affairs
California State University, Sacramento
Instructor: Diane Cummins
Class Room: MND 1030
Office Business 3029


This course is designed to give you a basic understanding of the process, policy and politics of public budgets at the state and local level. The budget is one of the most significant policy documents in the state affecting every citizen yet it is understood in detail by a relatively few. A public budget is about policy choices – how much money to raise, how to raise it and how to spend it. Because the budget is about choices, it reflects the priorities and values of those who shape the budget. The California State Budget is the seventh largest in the world because of the size of this State’s economy. The Budget is complex and even somewhat mysterious yet it is of interest to every advocacy group who would like to see the resources allocated in different ways.

You may not be able to put a budget together at the end of this class but the goal is to make you familiar with budget terms, budget processes and budget players. You will gain a knowledge of where California’s money comes from, how it’s allocated, how it is constrained and how politics influence this important activity.

Class Organization

This class is a seminar and therefore depends on your attendance and participation. You should come to class prepared to assigned reading and you must participate in class discussions.

There are a number of class readings that are intended to expose you to state and local budgeting. On occasion, additional handouts may be available if there are articles that would be useful. Your instructor will add to the material by using case studies from past and current budget situations. Guest speakers will be added to provide a different perspective and depth to the discussion.

Required Reading:

Text: Rubin, Irene S. 1997. The Politics of Public Budgeting: Getting and Spending, Borrowing and Balancing. Third Edition, Chatham House Publishers, Inc., Chatham, NJ. A general overview of federal, state and local budgeting.

Wilson, James Q. 1989. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. Basic Books, Inc., New York, NY. A discussion of the oft forgotten bureaucracy – those who actually implement the budget and policy.

Birnbaum, Jefrey H., and Alan S. Murray. Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform. Vintage Books, Random House, New York, NY. A look at Congress during the 1986 tax reform fight by two who were reporters for the Wall Street Journal.

The Sacramento Bee. The Bee covers both local and State budgets as well as most of the important issues of the day. You should be familiar with the Bee and use the information in class discussions and reports.

You will also be expected to read all of the major budget documents including the Governor’s State of the State address, the Governor’s Budget Summary, the Governor’s Budget Highlights, the Overview and the Analysis of the Governor’s 1999-00 Budget (LAO) and the Perspectives and Issues put out by the LAO (Legislative Analyst’s Office). Most of these documents are available on the Web though you should get copies as well.

Suggested Readings and Sources: These are suggested for a fuller understanding of budgets. All of the books are on 3-day reserve at the CSUS library.

The Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle have good budget coverage and are worth looking at.

Wildavsky, Aaron 1988. The New Politics of the Budgetary Process. Scott, Foreman & Co., Boston, Mass. And his earlier The Politics of the Budgetary Process. These focus on the federal budget and Wildavsky is a legend among budget types.

Krolak, Richard 1994. California’s Budget Dance: Issues & Process. California Journal Press, Second Edition, Sacramento, CA. This is the most current review of the state budgeting process.

Redman, Eric 1973. The Dance of Legislation. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY. This book describes the creation of the National Health Corp from the perspective of a congressional staff person.

Office Hours:

You can find me in Room 3029 of the Business Administration Building. I will be on campus from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays before class. My campus phone is (916) 278-5591 and you can leave messages. You may also call me at work at (916) 324-0341.


You will be graded on written assignments, book reviews, attendance and participation. Three unexcused absences mean an automatic drop of the course.

Individual writing assignment (4) 5 points each
Book reviews (2) 10 points each
Team writing/presentation (2) 20 points each
Attendance/participation 20 points

Individual Writing Assignments:

You will be assigned no more than four papers that will be no longer than four pages long. The topics will be assigned in class. Each assignment will be graded and returned the next week. Grades will be based on content and proper style.

Book Reviews:

You are required to complete two book reports of the assigned books Showdown at Gucci Gulch and Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. Each review will be 10 pages in length and describe the book and how it fits into the course.

Team Writing/Presentation Assignments:

You will have two team writing projects. The first will involve each team picking an issue and writing a proposal to get funding for the issue in the budget. Your team should also be prepared to defend the proposal in front of "critics".

The second project will involve picking a topic/issue (topics from which to choose will be available in class) and tracing that issue through the federal/state/county/city/special district/court budget as appropriate. You will be responsible for explaining the funding level, policy change, how it affects other budgets and how it affects the citizens of California. You should also be prepared to identify the unintended consequences of the policy choice/funding level. Both a written and oral presentation will be required.

You should plan on at least one meeting with your instructor after choosing a topic so that your team is on "the right track". Meetings can be scheduled as soon as you want (the earlier the better).

Style and Writing of Papers:

The Graduate School of Public Policy, Administration & International Affairs has adopted a Style Manual for your use. It is the Style Manual for Political Science (1993), American Political Science Association, Committee on Publications. The use of this manual is mandatory for written reports.

Due Dates for Assignments:

Assignments are due on the dates indicated. Late papers will be graded down by one-half grade for each day they are late.


Feb 2 General Introduction: What Is A Budget? The definition(s) of a public budget and introduction to the basic budget documents. A short discussion of the analysis of public policy issues. And a discussion of the course outline.
Feb 9 A Technical Primer: How To Read the State Budget – What Does It All Mean? This will be a discussion of the fundamentals of reading the Governor’s Budget, the Budget Bill, definitions of terms, funds, control sections, trailer bills and all the myriad details of the elements of public budgeting.
  Assigned Reading:
Governor’s Budget Summary and Schedules
Overview of the 1999-00 Governor’s Budget, LAO
Feb 16 How The Budget Is Built. This class concentrates on what happens in the fall process as the Administration assembles its proposed budget. You will learn about the budget timetable, revenue and expenditure projections, baseline and workload budgets, caseload and entitlements. What are MSAs, price, COLAs and ECPs?
  Assigned Reading:
Governor’s Budget Summary 1999-00
Governor’s Budget Highlights 1999-00
Feb 23 State Budget: How Does It Get Modified? This class will focus on why the budget that is proposed by the Governor gets changed by the Governor. And how does the Governor make those decisions and propose those changes.
  Assigned Reading:
1998-99 Final Budget Change Book
1998-99 Veto Message of the Governor
  First team written report on making a change in the budget due.
March 2 State Budget: Who Is the Legislative Analyst? This class will focus on role of the LAO in responding to the Governor’s Budget. How does the LAO pick its issues, who do they report to and how do they analyze policy issues.
  There will be a guest speaker.
  First Book Report Due – Showdown at Gucci Gulch.
March 9 State Budget: The Legislature’s Response. This class will focus on what happens after the Governor’s Budget is introduced and how the Legislature (the Senate and Assembly) sets its priorities and makes changes in the budget. There will be guest speakers who will tell you the budget "secrets " of the Legislature.
  Assigned Reading:
Senate Budget Overview of the Governor’s 1999-00 Budget
Assembly Budget Overview of the Governor’s 1999-00 Budget
March 16 State and Local Budget Constraints. This class will focus on the legal, political, and process constraints on elected decision makers at the state and local level. And we’ll discuss potential ways around those constraints in the form of "budget tricks".
  Assigned Reading
State Constitution
Articles Handed Out in Class
March 23 State and Local Budgets: How Did We Get In This Mess? This class will trace the tortuous history of the state/local fiscal relationship that has evolved since the Passage of Proposition 13.
  Assigned Reading:
Articles handed out in class
April 6 State and Local Budgets: How Are the Courts Funded in California? This class will focus on a program that has been neither fish nor fowl in terms of where the responsibility for the program lies. Are courts state or local, what does the new funding arrangement mean for the third branch of government? There will be a guest speaker who was one of three persons instrumental in putting together trial court restructuring.
  Second Book Report Due – Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It.
First team presentation on a budget issue
April 27 State and Local Budgets – Counties In California. This class will focus on what counties are, what are their responsibilities, how they establish their budget priorities and how they operate programs with limited resources. There will be a guest speaker who has extensive experience in county and state budgets.
  Second team presentation on a budget issue
May 4 State and Local Budgets – Cities in California. This class will explore cities and their responsibilities and budgets. Are cities more independent than counties? Should they be? Where do they fit in the delivery of services system?
  Third team presentation on a budget issue
May 11 State and Local Budgets – Special Districts in California. This class will focus on special districts and their role in the delivery of services. Have special districts been forgotten in the allocation of resources? Should there be special districts at all or should there be more?
  Fourth team presentation on a budget issue
May 18 Budget Reform for State and Local Government – Is It An Idea Whose Time Has Come? This class will be a panel presentation/discussion on various reform efforts to date, where those ideas have gone and what may happen in the future. You should come to class prepared to discuss new and wild ideas.