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Public Budgeting in 2020: Return to Equilibrium, or Continued Mismatch between Demands and Resources?


Philip G. Joyce is a professor of public policy and public administration at The George Washington University. In January 2011 he will join the faculty of the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Scott Pattison is the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. He is incoming Vice Chair of the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management.


Public budgeting in 2010 is dominated, at all levels of government, by continuing high demands for government services and large budget deficits. Looking ahead to 2020, these struggles are likely to continue. The federal government’s 10-year budget outlook is bleak, and its longer-term outlook is even more dismal, driven by growth in health care costs. State and local government budgets will slowly recover from the effects of the recent recession, but will continue to have structural problems. Each of the three major revenue sources—income, sales, and property taxes—are candidates for reform. On the spending side, health care and education will dominate at the state and local level, while controlling entitlement spending is the main federal challenge. Government also will face continued pressures to finance and maintain infrastructure, appropriately staff the budget function, and make good on promises of more transparent and accountable government.