Memos to the Governor

cover art

August 2004
LC: 2004005615


Table of Contents

Memos to the Governor
An Introduction to State Budgeting
Second Edition, Updated
Dall W. Forsythe
Foreword by Governor Mario M. Cuomo

With a new foreword by New York's former governor, Mario Cuomo, this revised and updated edition of Memos to the Governor is a concise guidebook that takes the reader behind governmental fiscal gobbledygook to explain in clear, understandable prose the technical, economic, and political dynamics of budget making. At all levels of government, the budget has become the battleground for policymaking and politics. This book helps current and future public administrators untangle the knotty processes of budget preparation and implementation.

Dall W. Forsythe, who served as budget director under Governor Cuomo, outlines the budgeting process through a series of memos from a budget director to a newly elected governor—a format that helps readers with little or no background to understand complicated financial issues. He covers all of the steps of budget preparation, from strategy to execution, explaining technical vocabulary, and discussing key topics including baseline budgeting, revenue forecasting, and gap-closing options.

Forsythe brings fresh insights into such issues as the importance of a multiyear strategic budget plan, the impact of the business cycle on state budgets, the tactical problems of getting budgets adopted by legislatures, and, of course, the relationship between governor and budget officer. Memos to the Governor is a painless, practical introduction to budget preparation for students of and practitioners in public administration and public-sector financial management.

Dall W. Forsythe served as budget director of New York State under Governor Mario Cuomo from 1988-1991. He was also chief budget officer for the New York City public schools. He has taught public management and political science at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, at Columbia University, and at the University at Albany. He has worked as a research scholar at the Rockefeller Institute of Government and as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. He is the editor of Quicker, Better, Cheaper? Managing Performance in American Government. Forsythe is currently an executive in the nonprofit sector, working for the Episcopal Church.

"I've never read a more insightful, useful, and valuable description of what is perhaps the most important single function in government—the making of a budget—than Dall Forsythe's Memos to the Governor."—From the Foreword by Governor Mario M. Cuomo

"[Memos to the Governor] will be immensely helpful to others involved in the budget process—state lawmakers, mayors and municipal leaders, city councils—all of whom would do well to digest this excellent guide to managing the money while serving the people. Dall Forsythe has shown that it can be done."—David N. Dinkins, former Mayor of the City of New York, and Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University

"Dall Forsythe is the consummate expert on the state budget process. This book of memos to the governor presents invaluable insights on this, the spinal column of decision making for all state and local public services."—Richard P. Nathan, director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government

Table of Contents


Introduction and Overview

MEMO 1. You and Your Budget Officer

MEMO 2. Budget Strategy

MEMO 3. Preparing the Executive Budget—The Technical Underpinnings

MEMO 4. Choices in the Final Phase of Budget Preparation

MEMO 5. Budget Tactics: Laying the Groundwork for Adoption

MEMO 6. Going Public with the Budget

MEMO 7. The Legislative Phase of the Budget Process

MEMO 8. Budget Execution

A Final Word on Strategy and Tactics

Budget Vocabulary