Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Policy Studies

Advisor

Warber, Adam

Committee Member

Barkley , David

Committee Member

Ransom , Bruce

Committee Member

Tollison , Robert

Abstract

A governor's role as chief legislator is based on his ability to recommend legislation and then use his powers to have his proposals enacted and implemented as public policies. Many gubernatorial scholars contend that this legislative role allows governors to exert greater influence than other political actors on state public policies (Bernick and Wiggins 1991; Herzik 1991; Sanford 1967). Other scholars argue that the ability of governors to exercise policy leadership may be overstated, because factors outside of a governor's direct control may constrain his policy choices (DiLeo 1997; Gross 1991). In this study, I assess the influence of these constraints by analyzing the economic development policies that governors of all fifty states proposed in their major legislative addresses from 1997 through 2006. My central research question is: Why is there variation in the types of legislative proposals that are developed by governors?
I find that governors are rational actors who behave strategically when recommending economic development policies to state legislatures. For example, governors are more likely to include economic development policies on their legislative agendas when their states lag the rest of the nation in economic performance. Similarly, my results show that governors recommend more entrepreneurial policies to stimulate business creation when their states are deficient in resources for business creation or are experiencing lagging business formation rates.
Governors also respond strategically to constraints that are imposed on them by the political environment. For example, I find that Republican governors have a stronger preference for traditional economic development policies than Democratic governors. During periods of divided government, however, Republican governors tend to recommend fewer of these policies, which indicates that governors recognize that they need legislative cooperation to enact their policies.
In short, I find that the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government at the state level is similar to the relationship between the two branches at the federal level. Policymaking relies primarily on the joint exercise of their shared powers, rather than their independent powers (Fisher 1998). At the state level, as at the federal level, we do not have a government of separated powers. Instead, we have what Neustadt (1990) refers to as a 'government of separated institutions sharing powers' (p. 29). My findings do not support claims by some gubernatorial scholars and former governors that governors are necessarily the most influential political actors in a state (Bernick and Wiggins 1991; Herzik 1991; Sanford 1967). My findings are more supportive of Rosenthal's (1990) contention that in most states the executive and legislative branches are roughly coequal and make policy through a process that relies heavily on bargaining and negotiation.

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