UW News

August 27, 2015

Evans School’s Justin Marlowe pens second installment of guide to public finance

UW News

Guide to Financial Literacy, volume 2, "Managing Your Jurisdiction's Financial Health." By Justin Marlowe of the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance.

Governing magazine’s “Guide to Financial Literacy,” volume 2. “Managing Your Jurisdiction’s Financial Health,” by Justin Marlowe, professor in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance.Governing magazine

Government finance is a bit like Italian opera, writes Justin Marlowe, professor in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance: It’s beautiful and elaborate, sure — but it’s also in a foreign language full of “traditions, customs and unspoken rules most casual fans don’t understand.”

And though local, county and state government officials don’t need to know Verdi from Wagner, they do need to know about public finance and how to keep the offices they represent solvent and successful.

That’s why Marlowe, a public policy specialist, wrote and published his “Guide to Financial Literacy” in Governing magazine in 2014. And it’s why he has now published a second volume, subtitled “Managing Your Jurisdiction’s Financial Health.” The new guide was published with the August issue of Governing magazine.

The intended audience is the same, Marlowe said: state and local government officials, especially legislators and finance/budgeting staff.

People run for office to help their communities, but quickly realize when they arrive in government that “they won’t change anything if they can’t speak the language of budgeting and finance,” Marlowe said.

He said the first installment of the financial guide helped give its readers a basic grounding in their role in public finance. “Once they’re part of that conversation, they see that lasting change can only happen if their government is financially healthy and stable. That’s why this second guide deals with financial health.

“It explains how to evaluate a state or local government’s financial health, and it lays out practical strategies policymakers can use to improve their government’s financial health for the long run,” Marlowe said. These include measures such as updating information technology systems, long-term planning and debt affordability studies.

The guide doesn’t get into more controversial topics such as restricting pensions or reforming entitlements, Marlowe said: “We focused on the more mundane, but potentially powerful changes governments can make without a lot of political consternation.”

Governing magazine sent the first guide to its 50,000 subscribers — who are mostly state and local officials — as well as professional associations. Some government offices even requested copies to use in their training activities for new elected officials.

There will be more such publications. Marlowe said he has already contracted to write a third volume, to be published in December, which will cover the financial aspects of public-private partnerships.

Marlowe said, “Governing’s publisher, Mark Funkhouser, put it best when he said, ‘We’ve got a hit movie, and the studio wants a sequel.'”


For more information, contact Marlowe at 206-221-4161, or jmarlowe@uw.edu

Note: Find the original guide online here and the second installment here. Both require email registration for access. Marlowe can provide PDFs of both guides to interested press.

View a video of Marlowe discussing this latest Guide to Financial Literacy, produced by the Evans School: