Institutional frictions ruling the public budget narrow a government’s possibilities to implement its electoral stances and policy preferences. At the same time, parties increasingly move around between the choice to be responsive and the need to be responsible. These have become major challenges in Italy, particularly after the 2018 elections and in the era of techno-populism, when many parties took office while advertising themselves as expert problem-solvers and the only ones able to give a voice to popular demands. Measuring the allocation of expenditure and budget changes in Italy during the XVIII legislative term, the paper studies the trade-off between responsibility and responsiveness and populism where budget policy is concerned. It also sheds light on the balance of power between the executive and the legislative, investigating how the first and second Conte governments steered and exploited the budgetary process to protect their spending preferences.