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In this paper. we suggest that many budget theories actually are about appropriating and not about budgeting. We trace this development back to the classic budgeting question posed by V.O. Keys in 1940. To clarify the issue, we examine early normative theories of budgeting, and apply many contemporary theories about budgeting to the budgeting process advocated for in this early work. By analyzing current theories, we show that budget theories are, in many cases, simply focused on parts of the budget process or on the role of techniques in decision making. Our analyses suggest that rather than theories competing with each other, a larger metatheory of budgeting emerges that can accommodate these different approaches. Further, we identify important gaps in the literature that still need to be addressed for a complete treatment of public budgeting theory.


This paper was originally published in a limited circulation conference proceedings and is published here to make it more available.


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