Policy Analysis No. 186

How Governors Think Congress Should Reform the Budget: Results of a Survey of U.S. Governors and Former Governors

By Stephen Moore
December 9, 1992

Executive Summary

A Cato Institute survey of 118 U.S. governors and former governors—including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton—reveals a strong consensus that both a line-item veto for the president and a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution would be effective methods of reducing the massive federal budget deficit. A majority of the governors also say that today Congress has too much power over the budget process and the president too little. Highlights of the survey follow.

  • Ninety-two percent of the governors believe that “a line-item veto for the president would help restrain federal spending.” Eighty-eight percent of the Democratic respondents believe the line-item veto would be useful.
  • By a two-to-one margin the governors approve of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Fifty-five percent of them said that a balanced-budget amendment was “very desirable”; 22 percent said it was “somewhat desirable”; and 24 percent said it was “not desirable.”
  • Nearly nine of ten of the governors believe that the federal government should reimburse state governments for the cost of federal mandates.
  • Fifty-five percent of the governors think that Congress has “too much authority over the federal budget,” against only 2 percent who think that the president has too much authority.

America’s governors and former governors have a unique perspective on budget reform issues. Most of them have had practical experience with the line-item veto and balanced-budget requirements in their states. The fact that most governors have found those budget tools useful in restraining deficits and unnecessary government spending suggests that they may be worth instituting on the federal level.

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Stephen Moore is director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute.