West Virginia Politics and Government

By Richard A. Brisbin Jr.; Robert Jay Dilger et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The Governor and Executive Branch

The governor, regardless of partisan affiliation or margin of victory, is the central figure in West Virginia's political system. The governor is, among other things, expected to establish the state's legislative agenda through the preparation of the executive budget request, actively participate in the legislature's deliberations both on budgetary matters and state policy initiatives, promote and direct the state's economic development efforts, champion the state's interests against encroachments by the federal government, lead his or her political party, and provide both moral and policy guidance for both the state legislature and the general public. Moreover, state executive departments expect the governor to establish and enforce the state's administrative goals and implementation strategies.

The relatively high expectations placed on the governor put him or her in a unique and somewhat precarious political situation. The governor is often praised or blamed for what occurs within the state's borders, regardless of his or her role in determining the outcome of those events. Often, these events are influenced by forces far beyond the governor's control, such as national economic trends and natural disasters, which can have a significant impact on the state government's fiscal capacity to provide public services. Moreover, the governor operates within a federal system increasingly dominated by federal policymakers. The state's budget priorities are often determined, at least in part, by the availability of federal grants-in-aid or by federal mandates. Federal grants currently account for over one-quarter of West Virginia's state budget. In addition, federal conditions attached to these grants often shape the state's implementation strategies and administrative procedures.1

The governor's authority is also limited because he or she both shares and competes for political power with the state legislature and the state judiciary. Although the governor has a number of institutional and political weapons at

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