Understanding Government Budgets: A Practical Guide, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Government Budgets

A Practical Guide, 1st Edition

By R. Mark Musell


108 pages

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pub: 2008-08-13
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Budgets in the United States follow rules of presentation and use terms that make sense to few outside the world of government finance. Moreover, practices vary widely among the thousands of governments in the country, between federal, state, and local levels. Understanding Government Budgets offers detailed explanations of each of the different types of information found in budgets, featuring annotated examples from both state and local budgets, as well as the budget of the federal government. It stresses that the choices made about format and organization influence the story a budget tells about government.

The goal of the book is to make the format of budgets and the information they contain accessible and understandable, helping users make better sense of government and its performance. Perfect for undergraduate or graduate level courses in budgeting and public administration, Understanding Government Budgets also makes a useful guide to budgets for the average citizen with an interest in how government operates or journalists writing about it.


"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, 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, 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, Senior Economic Adviser, the President's Council of Economic Advisers

"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, James Madison University

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

Table of Contents

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. The Federal Budget: An Example from The National Archives 9. Small Town USA: An Example from Avon, Connecticut 10. Performance in Budgeting: An Example from the State of Texas 11. Program Information in Budgets: An Example from Wichita Kansas

About the Author

R. Mark Musell teaches graduate courses in public budgeting and finance at the City College of New York, where he is also Director of Experiential Education for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. He has taught government budgeting at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and the Metropolitan College of New York. Professor Musell is the author of studies on government management, public employee compensation, government performance, and federal budgeting. 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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development