New York Politics & Government: Competition and Compassion

By Sarah F. Liebschutz; Robert W. Bailey et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
The New York Governorship

Sarah F. Liebschutz

Nelson A. Rockefeller, longest serving governor of New York, once observed that "great men are not drawn to small office."1 The office of governor of the Empire State is surely not small. On the contrary, because of substantial grants of formal power in the state constitution, the historical exercise of such powers by formidable incumbents, and widespread expectations that the governor provide leadership, the New York governor is one of the strongest in the nation. At the same time, the potential for the New York governor to exercise this influence has become more constrained since Rockefeller took office in 1959. This is the result of the challenges from an increasingly assertive legislature, as discussed in chapter 6. It is also the result of heightened tension in the pursuit of competitive and compassionate policies.


THE GOVERNOR'S FORMAL POWERS

Formal grants of authority that make the position of New York governor one of the most powerful in the nation include four-year terms without limit on reelection, vast powers of appointment, broad budget and fiscal responsibilities, and a leading legislative role. The governor lacks only two formal powers that are held by some other governors: the ability to reduce items in appropriations bills and the option of returning bills to the legislature with suggested amendments as an alternative to vetoing them.2

Throughout its history, New York "has been less chary of a strong executive than most of its sister states. During the revolution, when the norm was a one-year gubernatorial term, limited succession, and legislative selection of the governor, the New York constitution, drafted later and in a more conservative political milieu than prevalent in the other

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