A Budgeting Guide for Local Government
Robert L Bland
2013, 343 pages
Despite a proliferation of academic textbooks, few volumes accurately capture the complexities of the government budgeting process. But A Budgeting Guide for Local Government, by Robert Bland, may be helpful to new analysts entering government from their masters of public administration or public policy programs, and experienced practitioners who are looking for a refresher. The book details the budgeting process comprehensively, but succinctly, through seven chapters that include helpful illustrations and case studies. As a bonus, Bland's writing style is engaging, a rare quality in budgeting and finance textbooks.
The book begins by paying homage to Aaron Wildavsky, a legend in the fields of political science and government budgeting, who argued that, "One cannot speak of 'better budgeting' without considering who benefits and who loses or demonstrating that no one loses." The quote acknowledges the challenges faced by any budgeter --and why budgeting is not a strictly technocratic or economic exercise.
The guide is framed not as a pure economics or finance textbook, but a practical tool that acknowledges how human values, rational and irrational behaviors, and institutional norms drive government budgeting. The text implicitly encourages the reader that he or she will learn the budgeting process over time. The first four chapters introduce the context of government budgeting and the process of preparing and approving the budgeting, of addressing deliberations throughout the process, and implementing the budget. This comprehensive approach provides an excellent foundation for students who are new to government budgeting, while offering enough depth to merit attention from experienced practitioners who want to learn new strategies and skills to address the conflict and complexity in the budgeting process.
EXPLAINING THE PROCESS
Each chapter has easy-to-follow charts, tables, and sidebar discussions demonstrating what a budget is, how to understand it, and how to make changes throughout the process. For example, the first chapter presents a condensed budget. The second chapter has a table with the different organizational and individual actors involved in the budgeting process, in relation to their core values and focus, and a detailed flow chart of the budget process, to show the complexity and breadth of actors involved....