2nd Edition

Understanding Government Budgets A Guide to Practices in the Public Service

By R. Mark Musell, Ryan Yeung Copyright 2020
    158 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    158 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Public budgets follow rules of presentation and use terms that make sense to few outside the world of public finance. Moreover, practices vary widely among the thousands of governments across the globe, between federal, state, and local levels of government in the United States, and among nonprofit organizations, many of which provide services similar to governments. Understanding Government Budgets, Second Edition offers a detailed examination of each of the different types of information found in budgets, featuring annotated examples from a variety of organizations. It expands on explanations in the previous edition by including a wealth of examples from governments abroad and from the nonprofit sector. The book stresses that the choices made about content, format, and organization influence the story a budget tells.

    Designed to help citizens, students, and policy makers become more informed users of public budgets, this book makes the format of budgets and the information they contain accessible and understandable, providing users with the tools they need to make better sense of public organizations and their performance. Complete with online instructor support material including sample problems, in-class exercises, and discussion questions for each chapter, Understanding Government Budgets, Second Edition is perfect for undergraduate or graduate-level courses in budgeting and public administration, and offers a useful guide to budgets for citizens with an interest in how government operates.

    1. Introduction 2. The Basics of Government Budgets: Coverage, Status, and Numbers 3. The Basics of Budget Structure 4. Public Employment Totals in Budgets 5. Performance Measures in Budgets 6. Capital Spending in Budgets 7. Tax Expenditures and Tax Expenditure Budgets 8. Budgeting in the Nonprofit Sector 9. The Federal Budget: An Example from The National Archives 10. Small Town USA: An Example from Avon, Connecticut 11. Performance in Budgeting: An Example from the State of Texas 12. Program Information in Budgets: An Example from Wichita Kansas


    R. Mark Musell is the book’s principal author. For ten years he was the director of the master’s program in public administration at the City College of New York, where he taught courses in public budgeting and finance. He spent 25 years at the Congressional Budget Office studying the federal budget and providing members of Congress and their staff with budgetary information and analysis.

    Ryan Yeung is an assistant professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College, where he teaches courses in budgeting and financial management, policy analysis, policy process, program evaluation, and education policy. He has a Ph.D. in public administration and policy from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, a master of public administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and a bachelor of arts in economics and American studies from Amherst College.

    "At a time when debate on important public issues is confused by disdain for facts and information, this book offers an accessible guide to documents that citizens, policy makers, and students can use to determine for themselves what is really happening with their governments. It provides examples and clear explanations that can help them cut through and make sense of the volumes of often impenetrable material in budgets. In so doing the authors issue a clarion call for more informed debate and discussion of public policy.​"

    --Jeffrey Holland, VP Research, Peter G Peterson Foundation

    Praise for previous editions –

    "I think this is a wonderful project. It fills a long-standing need for a simplified but rich description and assessment of budgeting, made accessible to a wide range of students and practitioners."

    --Paul Posner, former Professor and Director of Public Administration, George Mason University

    "There are few public policy subjects as difficult as government budgeting. Professor Musell's book Understanding Government Budgets provides a clear, concise guide that will help practitioners, academics, businessmen, students, and the public at large better understand the complex and complicated world of government budgeting."

    --Barry Anderson, former Director of the Division of Budgeting and Public Expenditures, OECD Paris

    "Mark Musell has written an outstanding guide to government budgets. Students, practitioners, and citizens who want to understand how governments use their money will all benefit from his concise, accessible book."

    --Donald Marron, Institute Fellow, Tax Policy Center of Urban Institute and Brookings Institution

    "Public budget documents have evolved to serve multiple roles. In addition to presenting basic financial plans, contemporary budgets communicate performance data, strategic plans, organizational structure, financial and budgetary policies, and political rhetoric. As a result, public budgets have grown thick with useful (and not so useful) information. The terminology, formatting, and shear volume often combine to make budgets inaccessible to the average reader. Citizens, novice public administrators, and students alike will find R. Mark Musell's book an excellent guide to the interpretation of the often obscure language of public budgeting. Understanding Government Budgetsis filled with clear and focused writing, helpful examples, and an appreciable practicality."

    --Gary Kirk, Executive Director, Center for Civic Learning and Action at Dickinson College, USA

    "Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate through professional collections." -- CHOICE, Jun 2009 Vol. 46 No. 10