The authors examine the track record of applying performance-based budgeting (PBB) across three time periods within a sample of U.S. state governments: (1) throughout the 1990s, (2) in the early 2000s, and (3) during the Great Recession. State-level PBB is analyzed according to four elements: (1) the development of performance measures, (2) its applicability to budgeting and management processes, (3) its utility across the business cycle, and (4) its usefulness for budget players. An analytical framework is devised that highlights the “publicness” of American government, draws on the principal–agent model, and considers incentive mechanisms theory. Findings confirm that a good performance measurement system takes time to develop and operate well and that PBB functions more effectively for executive management than legislative purposes. PBB is used more by the states during strong economic times as opposed to during economic downturns. More importantly, PBB is only selectively applied by legislators in most states, whereas top executive policy makers, middle managers, and staff embrace and utilize PBB systems more extensively.