Saturday, February 21, 2009

Governors and Accountability

The reading from Niemi, Stanley and Vogel (Niemi) focused on what holds Governors accountable for the actions within their individual states. Niemi found that the economic stability and growth – or lack there of – did have an effect on the ability of the Governor to (1) run for reelection and (2) win their reelection. Additionally Niemi found that there was a correlation between tax policy and the way in which the Governor was perceived.
Niemi started with the interesting point of whether the Governors whose states were in decline or who had enacted high taxes even ran for reelection. Their contention was that if these Governors did not run for reelection there was no way for the voters to hold the Governors accountable because the voters wouldn’t have the option of voting for or against the particular Governor. Luckily, their study found that Governors, more often than not, run for reelection.
In the conclusion of Niemi’s study, they found that their original hypothesis was correct all along – that the tax policy and economy of the state matter in the reelection of the Governor. Basically, they found that whether at the state or national level, people tend to vote their pocketbooks. This runs contrary to the previous studies which have become widely accepted in political science today.
The Bernick article focused on the tools that the Governors use to do their jobs, rather than by what measure will the electorate hold them responsible for doing their jobs. Bernick found that there are two major classes of tools – those that are formal, and those that are informal. Among the formal tools are the line-item veto, budget preparation and appointment power. Among the informal powers are those related to relationships between the legislators and the Governor, media presence, popular support, and being the leader of his/her party. The study posited that the informal tools were more powerful than the formal tools. However the results are that they are about equal.
However, these results were from a very small survey population and did not occur over time. Rather the survey was a snap-shot in time and place, as not all places participated in the survey; however it makes for a good snapshot of powers. Especially the role and place of the line-item veto power for the Governor.
The Abney and Lauth article was abut the item veto and fiscal responsibility of the Governor. They found that the impact varies by the type of item veto and by the level of usage of the item veto. Governors who have the ability to item-veto tend to use it to reduce budgetary items and delete narratives in order to promote fiscal responsibility. However, fiscal responsibility is defined as an ability to control spending in an overall sense and to reduce spending on programs deemed undesirable by the governors. It was important that in order for the veto to have any power, the governor must use it. A governor with only narrative deleting power was less likely to use the power than one with item reduction and elimination power. Abney and Lauth indicate that we must view the veto as a whole, and as varied by institution, rather than as a group of powers that are the same across institutions.
These articles combined to discuss the power of the Governor. The Niemi article, while about reelection trends and economic/taxation trends, also speaks to the power of the governor involved. The people track economic decisions and taxation policy back to the governor because that is where it can be traced backed to as an origin point. That the governors be held accountable for using their power is only understandable and logical.
Additionally, the Bernick article spoke on the various formal and informal powers of the governors and how important those powers are. It was not, necessarily, about the use of those powers. Although for the respondents to the survey to determine what was important, they had to have been seen to be used in some manner or else they would not be important.
Lastly the Abney and Lauth article was speaking as to the importance of a single power – the item veto – and how that power can be used to further the agenda of the governor and the state as a whole.

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