The fact that some close relation should exist between a government's expenditures and revenues seems too obvious to mention. Yet fiscal officials have often lost sight of this first principle of sound financiering.
Funds have often been voted in excess of ordinary revenues, and without knowledge as to where revenue could be obtained. Revenues, on the other hand, have frequently exceeded the anticipated expenditures - a situation which usually leads to the squandering of public funds. The most common arrangement for a proper coordination of expenditures and revenues has been through the use of some form of a budget system.
Meaning of Budget. - The term "budget" has no fixed general meaning. Its origin is probably from the Latin, bulga, meaning bag or purse. In the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England made his speech on the finances, he took his accounts from a brugette (French for bag). Thereafter the term budget was applied to this speech. A little later it was used in France to denote an estimate of receipts and expenditures. In some cases it is practically synonymous with revenue and appropriation legislation.
A comprehensive budget system, however, should include more than this. It should be a definte plan to include all the fiscal operations of a government for a specified time. It may involve different features, one logically following the other. A comprehensive budget system, for example, might comprise, as an initial measure, a careful estimate of expenditure and revenues by some competent authority. These estimates should be given the sanction of the legislative body through their incorporation into appropriation and revenue bills. Provision should be made for the execution of the plan under legal direction, while checks should be provided through proper auditing and accounting methods. The fiscal, systems of some countries possess some of these features and omit others, while the officers to which the administration is given in different countries are likewise not always the same. For this reason mere reference to a budget system is unintelligible.
The citizenship of a state has a right to demand the most capable management of public funds. Government expenditures necessarily mean public burdens. The more the funds are squandered, the greater are the burdens upon the citizens in proportion to the rendition of the services for which the state was formed - that is, the things which can be done more efficiently by a collective organization than by individuals. The use of a budget - a systematic administration of revenues and expenditures such as that outlined above - should, therefore, be demanded by every citizen in order to make his government susceptible to intelligent popular control and responsibility, and so that each taxpayer may know where and why he is paying.