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Howell Jackson


The goal of this course is to introduce students to the law and practice of government budgeting in the United States. Students will be introduced to the basic structure of the federal budget process, including the President's Budget and Congressional budget procedures.  We will explore the roles of all three branches of federal government in setting budget policy in the United States, covering government shut-downs, debt ceiling crises, continuing resolutions, and ongoing debates over budget reforms and fiscal challenges.  Based on student interest, we may also take up entitlement reform, defense spending, budgeting for infrastructure as well as topics related to state budgeting practices and federal-state relations in budget policy.

Readings will be from Fiscal Challenges: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Budget Policy (2007) (Howell Jackson, et al., eds.) and additional distributed materials.

Also offered by the Law School as 2566. This course runs on the HLS schedule. Please note, this is a jointly offered course hosted by another Harvard school and, accordingly, students must adhere to the academic and attendance policies of that school. Students interested in writing a research paper on budget policy can sign up for an additional 2.0 credits in the Spring term. For these students, the course will continue for six two-hour sessions. In addition to covering selected addition topics, these sessions will include several meetings at which students will present and receive comments on drafts of their research papers. Research paper topics will be arranged with permission of the instructor and can address a wide range of issues related to budget policy, focusing on issues of current interest, including proposals for reforming budget policy. Examples of student papers from past years are available at Students interested in writing more extensive papers on related topics for additional credit are welcome to do so.