We have all heard the saying that someone should “put their money where their mouth is.” This means that they should prove that they mean what they say by, for example, betting on what they believe. This is essentially what a state budget does. It puts the state’s money in various places and it shows what the state truly believes.
State politicians can talk about what they value. They can claim to value certain things. However, it is their budgets that truly show us what their vision of public policy is. For example, let us say that a state’s legislators talk about how they feel that the education of their children is their highest priority. This would seem to be their public policy. But we need to look at their budget to see if that really is their policy. If they have been taking money out of the schools and putting it, for example, towards building prisons or towards reducing taxes for businesses, then we know that these things are really what are more important to them.
A state shows what its true policies are by where it allocates money when it is making its budget.