PAUS 3831
Classroom South 507, Tuesday, 4:30-7:00pm
Course Number 17612

Governmental Budgeting

Governmental budgeting examines the politics of the budgetary process, budgeting as a professional practice, and the role of budgets and budget processes in determining public policies.  We intend this class to meet the needs undergraduate students with a range of different interests and goals.  The content is rich and interesting for students interested in policy, and there is also skill-oriented, applied cases and exercises for those seeking a professional career in public affairs.   We examine current budget issues, the academic literature in budgeting and finance, and students will get the opportunity to research budgeting trends in a governmental or non-profit agency or program of their choice.  The primary focus of the course is on state and local government finance, but  the federal government also receives a substantial attention. 


Required Textbooks:

Rubin, Irene S. The Politics of Public Budgeting: Getting and Spending, Borrowing and Balancing. 5th ed. Washington D.C.: CQ Press, 2006.

This book should be available in the university bookstore.  I also recommend shopping on the Web to find the best prices.  This Web site might prove helpful.  Please notify the instructor immediately, if you have problems getting this book.  Additional readings are available on the Vista course home page.

Learning Objectives:

Understand the role of budgets and budget processes in policy making and implementation.  

Learn the basic process for preparing, enacting, and implementing government budgets.

Develop the ability to assess the leading contemporary proposals for budgetary reform.

Develop an understanding of the role that budgeting plays in policymaking.

Enhance writing, spreadhseet, analysis, and presenation skills needed to be an active participant in the budgetary process.

This is a required class in the Public Management and Governance concentration in the BS in Public Policy degree offered by the Department of Public Management and Policy in the Andrew Young School. This class is also an excellent elective for the PMAP undergraduate Planning and Economic Development concentration. Students in political science, journalism, and other applied feilds may also find this class useful, especially if their career plans involve government employment or oversight. Students planning careers in business or law may have similar needs.

Office Hours:

I will hold formal office hours from 2pm-4pm on Tuesday and Wednesday in room 316 of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.  Meetings can also be scheduled at a mutually convenient time.  I will also be answering questions via telephone during office hours.  You can reach your instructor by telephone at 404-413-0116.  Stay on the line, if I am away, and you will get my voice mail.  Electronic mail can be sent via the Internet to  You can also Email me from our WebCT Vista home page.  Fax messages can be sent to 404-413-0104Online office hours are available on request for students with access to a computer and a headset microphone.  Learn more about your instructor here.

Effective Email Communication:

Email has become our primary mode of communication, and needs to be done well.  Consider these basic requirements as essential when communicating with your instructor.

  • Many issues play out over a span of time, and they should be confined to a single email thread.  That is, always respond to the previous email, and always make sure that the previous emails remain intact.
  • Pick one email address at the start of class for me and for yourself and stick with it.  I can find your emails easier if they all come from the same place,  Likewise, spreading your correspondence with me across several email accounts does not help me to understand you better.
  • Do not send the same email and/or attachments to me multiple times.  I make it my job to keep track of your correspondence.  Multiple mailings are not necessary. Reminders when you do not hear from me are welcome.
  • I certainly prefer that you use an email address with some portion of your name in it.  GSU gives you such an ID, for example.
  • You should always use a signature that gives your contact information, should I need additional information.  Your signature should list other email addresses, if you are sending emails to me from multiple accounts.
  • You need to use subject lines that say something meaningful.  Imagine someone revisiting this topic a month later.  Will the subject line help me to find this email at a later point in time?

I think that we will both benefit from these simple practices.  Class issues often span 3-4 months.

The 3831 Class on the Web:

The course home page can be found at this location.  You will have problems using uLearn if you do not do a browser tune-up.  This is something that students are expected to do.  Any other problems can be addressed by contacting technical support.  Contact your instructor immediately if these resources are inadequate in any way.

Also note that this class will make intensive use of the uLearn assignment tool. check this out and find out what it can do. You see assignments and their deadlines in the inbox, and you can see (and access) anything you submit using the submitted tab. You see your grade and my comments on the graded tab.

Spreadsheet Skills:

Students who are not familiar with spreadsheets are strongly encouraged to complete at least the Level One Excel training offered by Element K (, which will take about 4 hours.  Element K access is free to GSU students, and it is excellent.  You receive a certificate for each level of training that you complete.  There are also a number of specialized modules for more advanced users.  If using spreadsheets is new to you, then get started on this training during the first week of this course.  We will be getting right to work on practical spreadsheet applications.

As an incentive, your instructor will provide 15 bonus points to any student who submits a certificate of completion for Level 1, 2, or 3 Excel training prior to the start of class on January 27th.  The offer is for 15 points out of the 1000 points available in this course.  This is 1 percent of your final grade.

Midterm and Final Exam:

There will be a midterm and a final exam in this class.  Both exams are take-homes in a traditional essay format.  You will have several days to complete each exam.  Completed exams should be in the range of 8-10 double-spaced pages. There will be three questions on the midterm and two questions on the final. The standards presented in the class writing tips do apply to the exams.

Answers to questions that do a good job of conveying the material covered in the class materials will receive grades in the B range.  The A answers will need to show more depth, which can come the analytical approach taken to the answer (as discussed in the class writing tips), very careful reading of the class materials, or insights gained from other sources. You will have a good idea of what will be asked on both exams before you see them, and thoughtful answers are expected.

Homework Assignments:

There are a number of homework assignments in this class, as shown below:

GFOA Best Practices Exercise (25 Points): Learn about the best practices identified by the Government Finance Officers Association.  Bring this to class.

Budget Expenditure Request Exercise (25 Points): Develop a budget request for a local government development department.  Submit this on uLearn.

Team Budget Analysis: Budgeting for a Job Training Program (50 Points): Develop a spreadsheet and a strategy for addressing budget challenges. There will be team work on this assignment to help support your efforts, but you will turn in your own assignment and receive an individual grade.

The Value of Money Over Time: The State of Grace Exercise (50 Points): Study the budgetary trends in the State of Grace, using deflators and accounting for inflation.  Submit this on uLearn. 

Team Financial Analysis: The Panama Water Authority Exercise (50 Points): Assess the financial condition of a public water authority. Submit the ratios that you calculated, a short assessment, and a conclusion on uLearn.  There will be team work on this assignment to help support your efforts, but you will turn in your own assignment and receive an individual grade.

Class Participation:

Class participation counts for 100 points (or 10 percent of your final grade) of your final grade.  Missing two classes or less will get you a grade of 70 for participation.  (Each additional class missed lowers your participation grade by 10 points.) You can raise your participation score by helping to lead the group case discussions that we will have most class nights. Group leaders arrive prepared, help keep the groups on task, and they frequently present group assessments to the entire class that touch on two or more of the following issues:

1. What happened? What are the most relevant facts presented in the case? 2. What is the budget related problem that is presented? If there is more than one, what are they? 3. Is there a solution that you can recommend? If applicaple, what could have been done to prevent the problem? 4. What can we learn from this situation that will help us in the future? Are there any changes that you can recommend? 5. How does this case relate to the theories, processes, and decisionmaking streams discussed in the class textbook?

Class Paper:


Budget Research and Proposal Project

The research project will require a small group of students [3-4] to investigate a specific public policy area and prepare a budget request supporting a program initiative that advances the public interest. The group is to prepare a justification for the proposed initiative and a budget and be prepared to defend it to the class. Each student in the group will research a specific component of the project and submit an individual paper on the research conducted in support of the groupís project.

Developing a strategy for your request can also be a part of your effort.  Students are encouraged to examine the literature on budget proposal strategies, consensus building, negotiation, power relations and confidence building in developing their proposal. It is important to make a sound argument for a needed initiative, but you also need to make a convincing case. Consider the members of the class to be your audience--the person(s) who have the power to grant your request.

The research paper must show evidence of scholarship in reviewing pertinent literature, which might include the budgets of governments, agencies, of nonprofit organizations and/or articles from the political science and public administration journals. At least 6 professional reference citations are required. You must defend your funding request, of course, but this should extend beyond the importance of your issue. Is your proposed project the best way to addess the problem or concern that you seek to address? Do the possible returns from your proposed project justify the costs? Why spend on this project now, rather than other on competing priorities? Quality papers are generally in the range of 5-8 pages.

A 10 minute oral presentation is also required.  Evaluation criteria include whether your presentation fit the 10 minute time limit, the soundness of your request (plausibility and feasibility), and whether your appeal strategy is convincing. The presentation is a group assignment, and everyone in the group will reveive the grade, though there will be a penalty for students who fail to participate. The student audience members will be asked to chose three proposals for funding. Carefully introduce both your group and your proposal title so that voters will remember you.

Every student must submit a written product on uLearn.  The presentation grade will be shared, but the project grade will be based on your own individual work. The standards presented in the class writing tips do apply to this paper assignment.


Plagiarism or Cheating:

Students need to do their own work in this class.  This is essential to mastering the knowledge and skills that we cover.  Students plagiarizing or cheating in any form will face disciplinary action that could result in receiving an ďFĒ in this course, or suspension or expulsion from the University.  If a student is ever unclear as to what constitutes plagiarism or cheating regarding work on written or oral presentations, please consult the student handbook and/or your instructor.  It is the studentís responsibility to know the meaning of plagiarism and when it occurs.  The following is reprinted from the GSU Student Handbook: 

Plagiarism is presenting another personís work as oneís own.  Plagiarism includes any paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgement, including the summarizing of another studentís work as oneís own.  Plagiarism frequently involves a failure to acknowledge in the text, notes, or footnotes the quotation of the paragraphs, sentences, or even a few phrases written or spoken by someone else.  The submission of research or completed papers or projects by someone else is plagiarism, as is the unacknowledged use of research sources gathered by someone else when that use is specifically forbidden by the faculty member.  Failure to indicate the extent and nature of oneís reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism.  It is also plagiarism to reuse material you prepared for different courses in the same program.  The student is responsible for understanding the legitimate use of sources, the appropriate ways of acknowledging academic, scholarly or creative indebtedness, and the consequences of violating this responsibility.


Final course grades will be determined as follows:

Course Component

Available Points

Participation 100

Homework Assignments



Mid-Term Exam



Budget Research and Proposal Project (including a presentation score of 50 points)


Final Exam 225


Students must earn 900+ points to receive a grade of "A," 800+ points to earn a "B," and 700+ points to earn a grade of "C."  Incomplete grades will only be given for nonacademic reasons when advance arrangements have been made.  In this class, a B is the expected grade for good, competent work.  Grades in the A range are reserved for excellent work.  Excellent work goes beyond the minimum in some important way.  Plus and minus grades will be used in this class for final course grades when a grade is within 15 percent of a lower or higher grade.  For example, a final point total of 815 or less is a B-.  Likewise, a score of 885 or above is B+.  Note that there is no A+.

You will be able to check your scores on the class home page.  Grades on the exams and the written assignments will be presented on a 100 point scale, so that you can better evaluate your performance.  A weighted point total will be provided around the middle of the course, which will allow you to see how well you are doing.

Policy on Late Assignments:

Achieving our class goals requires steady progress, and penalties for late work help to keep everyone current.  The grade on any assignment turned in more than 15 minutes after the deadline (by my time) will be reduced one half of a letter grade (5 percent).  There will be another half letter grade reduction for each additional 6 hour period.  Assignments will not be accepted when they are more than two days late.




Class One, January 6

Introduction to the Course

Goals: Get introduced to budgeting in the public sector.  We will also do group assignments today, and we will keep these same groups for the entire semester.  Each group must have three or four members.  The groups will be involved in case presentations and the budget research and proposal assignment.

Note: Please complete the Budgeting Student Data Sheet, if you have not done this already.  You will find it on the uLearn page.  Click to download the Word form, fill it out, and email it back to me.  (This should be completed in Word for best results.)  Print the form and fill it out the old fashioned way, if needed.  You can scan it and email it, bring it to me, or fax it to 1-206-203-2056  This is a toll call. Also, you may practice submitting an assignment in uLearn after class tonight.  It is a good idea to practice before you need to submit an assignment in this way. 


Class Two, January 13

The Politics of Public Budgets

Goals: Learn about the the mix of politics, process, and constraints that determine budgetary outcomes.

Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 1.

Some news cases will be provided on uLearn for the discussion groups. You may also bring in your own short cases.


Class Three, January 20

Revenue Politics

Goals: Focus on Government Revenue Sources and the Politics of Raising Revenue. Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 2.

GFOA Best Practices Discussion 

Bring a completed GFOA Best Practices Assignment to class.


Class Four, January 27

Developing an Expenditure Request

Goals: Learn how to develop a budget request using Microsoft Excel.

Note: We will meet in a lab classroom--AYSPS 720.

Deadline, January 30 at 11pm: You must submit your answer for the Budget Request Expenditure Request Exercise homework assignment. 


Class Five, February 3

The Politics of Process

Goals: Learn about budget processes and how they can help or hinder political goals.

Readings: The Reagan Revolution, Harvard Kennedy School Case 1344 ( 

Budget Process Case Discussion


Class Six, February 10

Team Budget Analysis

Goals: Learn how to work with a team to address challenging budget issues.

Note: We will meet in a lab classroom--AYSPS 720. Come to class prepared to discuss the Budgeting for a Job Training Exercise in your discussion groups.


Deadline, February 13 at 11:30pm: You must submit your individual answer for the Budgeting for a Job Training Program Exercise.  It is fine if your final product reflects what you learned in your group session and in class, though this is only true for the team homework assignments.


Class Seven, February 17

Expenditures: The Politics of Choice

Goals: We will learn how budget decisions are made.

Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 5, Writing Tips for 3831.

Note: We will also learn how to prepare professional written products that can contribute to the policymaking process. Please take a look at the sample GAO report that is available on the uLearn page. The writing tips that we will discuss should be followed carefully for both exams and the final paper.


Class Eight, February 24  

Midterm Exam

Your exam will be available on uLearn by 9:30am on February 24, and it is due by 11:30pm on February 28. There will be three essay questions on the exam.

No Class Today: Work on your midterm.  


Class Nine, March 10

Spreadsheets and Trend Analysis

Goals: We will learn how to analyze budget trends across time.

Note: We will meet in a lab classroom--AYSPS 720.  

Deadline, March 13 at 11:30pm:  You must submit your answer for the State of Grace Exercise. 


Class Ten, March 17

The Politics of Balancing the Budget

Goals: We will learn about the politics and the challenges involved in balancing the budget.

Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 6.

Some news cases will be provided on uLearn for the discussion groups. You may also bring in your own short cases.


Class Eleven, March 24

Team Financial Analysis

Goals: Learn how budgets are implemented and get introduced to techniques for interpreting government financial statements. Readings: The Panama Water Authority Exercise, Harvard Kennedy School cases 949.0 and 949.4. You do need to download both case files:



Deadline, March 27 at 11:30pm: You must submit your individual answer for the Panama Water Authority Exercise.  It is fine if your final product reflects what you learned in your group session and in class, though this is only true for the team homework assignments.


Class Twelve, March 31    

Budget Implementation and Control

Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 8.

Goals: We will learn about how budget impementation can go awry.

Some news cases will be provided on uLearn for the discussion groups. You may also bring in your own short cases.


Class Thirteen, April 7   

Budget Project Presentations

Goals: Learn more about budgeting and public policy from your fellow budgeting students.

Note: Missing class or leaving early gets you a presentation score of zero. 


Class Fourteen, April 14

Budget Project Presentations

Goals: Learn more about budgeting and public policy from your fellow budgeting students. Note: Missing class or leaving early gets you a presentation score of zero. 

Deadline, April 18 at 11:30pm: You must submit your Budget Project Paper.  


Class Fifteen, April 21

Budgetary Decision-Making and Politics

Readings: The Politics of Public Budgeting, Chapter 9.

Goals: We will examine the political threads that run through all aspects of public budgeting.

Some news cases will be provided on uLearn for the discussion groups. You may also bring in your own short cases.


Final Exam, Available at 9:30am on April 28 and due by 11:30pm on May 2.

Note: You must submit your exam on the Vista home page. 


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