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Governors, Grants, and Elections

Fiscal Federalism in the American States

Each year, states receive hundreds of billions of dollars in grants-in-aid from the federal government. Gubernatorial success is often contingent upon the pursuit and allocation of these grants. In Governors, Grants, and Elections, Sean Nicholson-Crotty reveals the truth about how U.S. governors strategically utilize these funds. Far from spending federal money in apolitical ways, they usually pursue their own policy interests in the hopes of maximizing their or their party’s electoral success.

Nicholson-Crotty analyzes three decades of data on the receipt and expenditure of grants in all fifty states. He also draws compelling evidence from governors’ public speeches and interviews with state officials. Ultimately, he demonstrates that incumbent governors’ use of grants to deliver policies desired by core constituents—along with their opportunistic funding of public and private goods that appeal to noncore median voters—enables them to increase approval, legislative success, and, ultimately, vote share for themselves or their parties.

The inaugural book in the Johns Hopkins Studies in American Public Policy and Management series, Governors, Grants, and Elections is a significant and accessible work of public policy scholarship that sits at the nexus of multiple fields within political science.

About the Author

Sean Nicholson-Crotty is an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.


"In this sophisticated book, Nicholson-Crotty combines two robust literatures—one on state politics, the other on fiscal federalism—in new, interesting, and important ways. A compelling mixed-methods account of how governors seek and spend grants to successfully advance both their political and policy goals."

- Craig Volden, University of Virginia, coauthor of Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress: The Lawmakers

" Governors, Grants, and Elections brings partisan and electoral calculations into the mix, treating politicians the way that the real world does rather than as the robotic 'goods providers' of many social choice models. Nicholson-Crotty mixes qualitative evidence into a series of convincing empirical tests that rely on modern quantitative methods."

- Thad Kousser, University of California–San Diego, coauthor of The Power of American Governors: Winning on Budgets and Losing on Policy


"In short, this book raises as many new questions as it answers and will likely set the research agenda for the study of American federalism for years to come."

- Political Science Quarterly
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Studies in American Public Policy and Management
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