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Divided Government, Fiscal Institutions, and Budget Deficits: Evidence from the States


  • Alt, James E.
  • Lowry, Robert C.


Does partisan control of American state government have systematic effects on state spending and taxing levels? Does divided control affect the government's ability to make hard decisions? Do institutional rules like legal deficit carryover restrictions matter? Using a formal model of fiscal policy to guide empirical analysis of data covering the American states from 1968 to 1987, we conclude that (1) aggregate state budget totals are driven by different factors under Democrats and Republicans, the net result being that Democrats target spending (and taxes) to higher shares of state-level personal income; (2) divided government is less able to react to revenue shocks that lead to budget deficits, particularly where different parties control each chamber of the legislature; and (3) unified party governments with restricted ability to carry deficits into the next fiscal year (outside the South) have sharper reactions to negative revenue shocks than those without restrictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Alt, James E. & Lowry, Robert C., 1994. "Divided Government, Fiscal Institutions, and Budget Deficits: Evidence from the States," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 88(4), pages 811-828, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:88:y:1994:i:04:p:811-828_09

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