Focusing on Italy (1948-2009), this article empirically tests whether shifts in governments’ ideology and policy priorities are related to public spending changes in four policy sectors. The results indicate that shifts in governments’ priorities are related with public spending changes in welfare and defence, while they are not relevant to explain changes in public orderand education spending. Government ideology is relevant only when it comes to defence spending, but this influence can be hindered by veto players. We argue that these findings do not disprove the importance of partisan politics but warn us against relying too much on the distinction between left and right parties. This article has been accepted for publication on the Italian Political Science Review and will appear on the 3rd issue of the 2016 volume.