The Effects of State Constitutional Design of Gubernatorial and Legislative Authority in State Budget Policy

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Virginia Tech

Each of the fifty U.S. state constitutions establishes a fundamental framework for governmental operations within the state. Described by previous scholarship as the state's political technology, state constitutions delineate formal gubernatorial and legislative authority. Extant literature has focused on gubernatorial and legislative relations from the standpoint of the contemporary contextual political factors associated with individuals serving in the respective offices. Although useful, this focus limits a deeper understanding about how state constitutions, as a point of departure, might affect the way in which governors and legislators interact in the policy process. Specifically examined by this research is how variation in design might impact the ability of governors and state legislatures to achieve preferred policy alternatives. This is addressed through the divergence between the governor's proposed budget and the state legislature's enacted budget. To analyze potential influences of this divergence, state budgets from 27 U.S. states over a recent period of eleven years were collected and coded according to policy areas. Data were used to test hypothesized effects of state constitutional design of formal authority. Based on Tobit model estimation and predicted values of divergence derived from alternative constitutional design scenarios, some state constitutional factors affect the ability of governors and state legislatures to achieve preferred policy alternatives. Salient constitutional variables include gubernatorial and legislative budget authority, institutional control, and duration in service factors. The empirical focus of this research contributes to a more enriched understanding of state constitutions as political technologies. In essence, the design of state constitutional authority has the potential to affect how governors and state legislatures interact in the policy process. In addition to contributing to state constitutional theory, these findings enrich the understanding of the design of authority by reformers and citizens.

state constitutional design, state budget policy, state legislatures, governors, formal authority