The Effect of a Capital Budget on Capital Spending in the U.S. States


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Virginia Tech


This thesis analyzes the impact of capital budget on capital spending in the U.S. states. The analysis is based on the James Poterba's 1995 study of the impact of a capital budget on capital spending using 1962 U.S. state-level data. I first replicate Poterba's model using the 1992-1996 data set that I had constructed for this study. I then extend Poterba's model to include a set of variables that allows exploration of the specific effects of the regulatory environment on spending outcomes in each state. These are mainly categorical variables that classify states in accordance with their definition of capital expenditure, organization of capital planning process, project selection and cost estimating techniques and capital financing practices. These were constructed using the data of the 1997 NASBO survey after reviewing the suggestions of practitioners and policy makers, as well as those engaged in research in this field. The introduction of a set of budget rule/budget composition variables into the analysis is an important contribution of this study. I also introduce additional control variables such as those controlling for the age of infrastructure. This study supports the claim that government spending is determined by a host of causal factors that can be grouped into four broad categories, (1) demographic-economic factors, representing both demand for public capital and source of its financing, (2) political decision-making factors that reflect electorate/party in power preferences for spending, (3) capital stock variables that relate to the age of infrastructure and control for spending culture in a state, and (4) budget composition/spending rules. The main finding of this study is the confirmation of Poterba's finding with respect to the positive effect of capital budget on capital spending using a recent data set and longer time frame of analysis. Another major contribution of this study is a statistically significant effect of sixteen spending rule/ budget composition variables. The results of this study support the basic premise found in the literature that budget process affects capital spending.



capital budget, state spending, state budgeting practices