Sticky Policy: the Effectiveness of Policy Diffusion for a Federal Block Grant in Texas




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Each year, the federal government provides billions of dollars to state and local jurisdictions to fund a wide variety of public policies. According to some estimates, grants-in-aid account for almost one third of total state funding. While the programs funded by these grants address very real needs, the grants themselves are structured to ensure that federal policy is followed to a greater or lesser extent. Despite the often-heard call for smaller government, this influence has largely been accepted by American society, and is expected in some cases. Scholars have studied intergovernmental influence from a variety of perspectives, including policy diffusion. The bulk of this research has focused on the state-to-state adoption process, and has identified a variety of contributing factors. While the study of local policy diffusion has occurred, this has typically focused on identifying individual factors, and not on an examination of the broad range of possibilities. This study proposes to scrutinize how a variety of factors contribute to policy diffusion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program with the goal of shedding light on the local process in Texas.

In addition, the study will also analyze if the policy influence behind the grant continues as part of the community decision making process after the money has been spent and the projects completed. There are three generally accepted forms of federal grants-in-aid; categorical grants, block grants, and revenue sharing. Scholars have identified a variety of advantages and disadvantages associated with each form. Block grants are thought to carry fewer restrictions, promote innovation, and have a moderate influence on policy. It seems reasonable to expect that because they use fiscal incentives, the policy influence from block grants may decline rapidly after the award is complete. In fact, Congress tends to modify block grants and gradually transform them into more restrictive categorical grants, which establishes more control but decreases their ability to encourage innovation. However, if policy influence continues after the grant is completed, then restricting block grants may not be as necessary to meet national goals. This could be an incentive for Congress to emphasize the more innovative aspects of these grants instead of restricting them as they mature. The EECBG offers an opportunity to not only better understand the reasons Texas municipalities use the grant, but to discover if the policy behind the award has influence after the program is complete.



Public administration, Human ecology—Study and teaching—Texas, Intergovernmental fiscal relations—Texas, Block grants—Texas, Texas—Politics and government