A study of 134 Rhode Island programs, administered during the state's budget crisis in the fiscal years 1987 to 1991, yielded a number of important lessons. The more mandated formula spending there was in a budget, the more uncontrollable was the budget. There is a spending bias ingrained in the political culture. Some nonentitlement spending can be difficult to curtail. Cutback management strategies are inadequate to address significant revenue shortfalls. The authors present a political budget matrix designed to assist budget policymakers and staff in making educated assumptions about the way categories of programs may be treated during times of severe fiscal stress. The matrix takes into account such elements as formulas, labor intensity, and position on the political agenda.



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