Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Although state government officials have direct power over certain issues like fiscal policy, legislatures and governors can be held accountable for conditions largely outside their control, such as unemployment at the state and national levels. To compound this effect, national fiscal policy and economic conditions have been volatile and highly publicized in recent years, with little research to discover how much these conditions affect elections at the state level. This study finds that although national fiscal policy and economic conditions are highly visible, voters often only hold state representatives accountable for conditions within their control: state fiscal policy decisions. Furthermore, governors are held more accountable than legislators for fiscal policy decisions, while legislatures avoid direct scrutiny and are only affected by partisan association with presidential and gubernatorial representatives. Interestingly, while governors are punished for increasing the size of government, they are rewarded independently for revenue and expenditure increases as well as budget mismanagement. This implies that while voters allocate accountability for fiscal policy conditions to state representatives, voter desire for government program and benefit sustainment outweighs the conventional desire for prudent budget management. Finally, it is observed that while voters desire lavish spending at the state level, they expect more fiscal prudence from federal budget decisions.

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