The Case for Counter-Cyclical Fiscal Capacity

37 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2007

See all articles by Yilin Hou

Yilin Hou

Maxwell School, Syracuse University

Donald P. Moynihan

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy


A growing literature has sought to demonstrate when and how government capacity links to performance. This article examines those questions in the area of financial management. A basic challenge for state governments is to maintain budgetary stability and program predictability in face of economic downturns. State governments can best meet this challenge by developing what we call counter-cyclical fiscal capacity. We present the concept of counter-cyclical fiscal capacity as the creation and use of financial tools that help state governments maintain counter-cyclical spending and program stability during revenue shocks. We operationalize the concept in terms of fiscal reserves that are used to mitigate emergency spending cuts and tax increases, and analyze the operation of such reserves over a period that includes recessions in 1991 and 2001. We find evidence of the efficacy of counter-cyclical fiscal capacity, and argue for greater investments in this aspect of government capacity.

Keywords: counter cyclical, governance capacity, rainy day fund, general fund balance

JEL Classification: H70, H72, H74

Suggested Citation

Hou, Yilin and Moynihan, Donald P., The Case for Counter-Cyclical Fiscal Capacity. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory Oxford Journals, Production Oxford University Press 2001 Evans Road Cary, NC 27513, USA Fax: (919) 677-1714 E-mail:, Available at SSRN:

Yilin Hou (Contact Author)

Maxwell School, Syracuse University ( email )

426 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244-1020
United States
315-443-3114 (Phone)

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Donald P. Moynihan

Georgetown University - McCourt School of Public Policy ( email )

Old North, Suite 100
37th & O Streets NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

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