International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

The range of gubernatorial powers is largely determined by constitutional provisions and tenure in office; some states still restrict the powers of their governors, but many have expanded the roles of their governors. On this basis, a governor is often perceived as "strong" or "weak." (A weak governor rarely stands a chance of reelection to a second term of office.) Specifically, a "weak-governor" state is one characterized by fragmented executive structures coupled with constitutional restrictions on the governor's term of office, limited control over the governor's personnel appointments and firings, limited formal powers, restricted power to veto bills passed by the legislature, and constitutional prohibition to succeed him- or herself in office.

In addition to constitutional and statutory provisions, gubernatorial power is a function of competence, ability, and personality ( Sabato 1983). Moreover, in a democratic system the most important source of political power is the people. The ability of a governor to persuade the populace ultimately determines whether he or she succeeds or fails to exercise the powers conferred to him or her under the law.



Dressang, Dennis L., and James J. Gosling, 1989. Politics, Policy, and Management in the American States. New York: Longman.

National Governors' Association Center for Policy Research, 1978. Governing the American States: A Handbook for New Governors. Washington, DC: National Governors' Association.

Ransone, Coleman B., Jr., 1982. The American Governorship. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Rosenthal, Alan, 1990. Governors and Legislatures: Contending Powers. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Sabato, Larry, 1983. Goodbye to Good-Time Charlie: The American Governorship Transformed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Snider, Clyde F., and Samuel K. Gove, 1965. American State and Local Government. New York: Meredith.

Williams, J. Oliver, 1972. "Changing Perspectives on the American Governor". The American Governor in Behavorial Perspective, eds. J. Oliver Williams and Thad L. Boyle. New York: Harper and Row.

GRANT-IN-AID . Assistance from a central to a regional government, usually taking the form of fiscal assistance, but including distribution of commodities as well.

Governments that rely upon both central and regional authorities must provide for a structure of financial relationships among those units. This is an especially critical concern in federal systems, such as the United States, Australia, and Canada, in which governments at the various levels each impose taxes, generating significant revenue for their own operations. Despite the financial independence this can give governments at various levels, each of these federal systems provides for money grants through which central governments assist the regional and local ones.

In the United States , modern federal grants-in-aid (those from the federal government to governments at other levels) date from passage of the Weeks Act in 1911, which provided for grants to assist states in protecting against forest fires. The act required states that would receive the money to first secure federal government approval of a state plan. It also specified the nature of federal government scrutiny of state programs operated with the money received.

Although the program the Weeks Act created was a small one, Congress soon used grants-in-aid for larger assistance efforts. The Smith-Lever Act established the Agricultural Extension Service, making millions of dollars available to states to provide assistance to farmers and rural families. The Federal-Aid Highway Act initiated highway construction grants to the states in 1916-focusing first on surfacing rural postal roads-and established the precedent of setting organizational and construction standards that states had to meet to receive aid. Additionally, the act provided that grants had to be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by recipients. Highway construction grants quickly became the largest aid program of the early twentieth century.

These grant-in-aid programs established the pattern Congress followed in succeeding decades, but they were not the first aid programs, nor even the first money grants from the federal government to the states. They were presaged by over a century of land grants that had supported elementary and secondary schools, transportation (roads, canals, railroads), and higher education. Even more immediate, the Hatch Act of 1881 had provided for annual money grants to each state of US$15,000 to create Agricultural Experiment Stations, although it did not include the type of controls and matching requirements that became associated with later grant-in-aid programs.

As grant-in-aid availability expanded in the twentieth century, there were two periods of dramatic growth-the 1930s and the 1960s. Among the more prominent of the programs adopted during the first of these grant explosions were those included in the Social Security Act of 1935old-age assistance, aid to the blind, aid to dependent children (added in 1939). Additionally, temporary emergency relief measures were adopted to help state and local governments cope with the immediate problems of the depression years.

During and immediately after World War II, expansion of the number of grants was much slower, but in the 1950s the amount of money expended through grants-inaid grew. A particularly significant addition was initiation of grants for construction of the Interstate Highway system, begun in 1956.

The 1960s produced sweeping change. This change was characterized by the U.S. Advisory Commission on In


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