Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, has long been held up as a model of how grassroots social movements, in alliance with a Left party in power, have deepened democracy in a highly clientelistic context. But what happened to this democratic reform when the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers' Party, PT), which supported this initiative while it held the mayorship of Porto Alegre for 16 years, lost political power? This article examines the shifting fortunes of the participatory budgeting process following the defeat of the Workers' Party in the 2004 local elections. It explores how and why succeeding local administrations weakened participatory budgeting amid the changing political configuration of Porto Alegre, underscoring the critical role played by considerable executive branch powers in the process. The article concludes by examining what questions this raises for the sustainability of local democratic reforms.