An Examination of Seven Sociopolitical Factors and Their Connection with State Environmental Expenditures

Robert P. Blauvelt


State environmental agencies serve as first-responders during and after environmental disasters (man-made or natural), track and identify individuals and businesses that violate anti-pollution statutes, and function as scientific and data-gathering centers for policy makers. The robustness of a state environmental agency’s budget also can be a measure of a state’s environmental commitment. An understanding of the funding dynamics associated with establishing a state’s environmental agency budget is a complex political ballet with often mysterious and competing forces influencing the financial choreography.

This paper analyzes possible political and cultural influences on budgetary outcomes in an attempt to identify those common, underlying, non-econometric factors that may drive or significantly contribute to state environmental agency funding. Those described here include, for 49 states (exclusive of Hawaii) between 2000 and 2009, total state expenditures, per capita income, educational attainment, agency staffing, environmental quality as measured through impaired waters, citizen ideology, and state agency performance. A Pearson’s product moment correlation coefficient is used to compare state environmental expenditures to these seven data sets.

Those states showing the biggest change (positive or negative) in annual environmental agency budgets also have the strongest correlation (positive or negative) with the total number of independent variables. This relationship implies that changes to sociopolitical factors may sway or have an influence on state environmental agency funding. As the number of correlations increase, their effect on agency funding may become more pronounced. This suggests a “critical mass” type relationship. Alternatively, as more sociopolitical factors combine to compel either increases or decreases in environmental agency funding, legislative priorities might be re-organized to accommodate that pressure with funding levels adjusted accordingly. The confluence of these special interests, either positively or negatively, may force environmental agency funding levels to overcome or shed local suppressive or masking effects (political scandals, policy distractions, etc.) to more closely reflect constituent demands and concerns. 

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