Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Affairs

First Advisor's Name

Howard Frank

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Hai Guo

Second Advisor's Committee Title


Third Advisor's Name

Shaoming Cheng

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Florence George

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


public affairs, public policy, public administration

Date of Defense




This dissertation answers whether a connection exists between an American State Government’s (ASG’s) level of fiscal transparency and attainment of improved fiscal outcomes. Improved fiscal transparency is normatively positive and expected to be rewarded by bond rating agencies with better ratings resulting in lower borrowing costs. Likewise, improved fiscal transparency is expected to lead to lower levels of debt. Yet, no empirical evidence exists to bolster such assertions.

Specifically, two interrelated research questions are addressed. Research Question one focuses on why some states have greater levels of fiscal transparency? This question distills to an exploration of possible drivers of fiscal transparency at the state level. Research Question two answers whether higher levels of fiscal transparency in ASGs are associated with improved fiscal outcomes, which are measured by a state’s yearly bond ratings as well as their ratios of debts and Domestic State Product (DSP).

The quantitative analysis covers four fiscal years (FY 2015-18) for each of the 50 ASGs. Given the ordered nature of the fiscal transparency variables, estimation of research questions is by a series of Panel Ordered Logistic Regression Models. Fiscal transparency variables are derived from the Volcker Alliance’s Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting Project (Volcker Alliance, 2015). Grades are proxy indicators for explaining the different dimensions of Fiscal Transparency for ASGs. The five dimensions are Budget forecasting, Budget Maneuvers, Legacy Costs, Reserve Funds and Transparency.

Findings are nuanced. Professionalism of managers is an important determinant of fiscal transparency for ASGs. In accordance with theory, this indicator is positive and significant in all models explaining fiscal transparency. Moralist political culture is significant in most models as well. Most importantly, the level of fiscal transparency is an important indicator in determining the attainment of improved bond rating and Debt/DSP ratio. Insertion of this information into real-world scenarios for ASGs provides practitioners with insights on what, if any payoffs accrue for increasing fiscal transparency. Regression results also provide indicators of potential dollar savings to states that maximize disclosure.



Available for download on Tuesday, March 19, 2024


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