|REVIEW & OUTLOOK|
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
SEPTEMBER 10, 2008 , PA14
One rap on Sarah Palin’s qualifications to be Vice President is that she governs one of our least populated states, with a budget of “only” $12 billion and 16,000 full-time state employees. On the other hand, it turns out that the Governor’s office in Alaska is one of the country’s most powerful.
For more than two decades Thad Beyle, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, has maintained an index of “institutional powers” in state offices. He rates governorships on potential length of service, budgetary and appointment authority, veto power and other factors. Mr. Beyle’s findings for 2008 rate Alaska at 4.1 on a scale of 5. The national average is 3.5.
Only four other states — Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia — concentrate as much power in the Governor’s office as Alaska does, and only one state (Massachusetts) concentrates more. California may be the nation’s most populous state, but its Governor rates as below-average (3.2) in executive authority. This may account in part for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor legislative track record. The lowest rating goes to Vermont (2.5), where the Governor (remember Howard Dean) is a figurehead compared to Mrs. Palin.
In Alaska, the Governor has line-item veto power over the budget and can only be overridden by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature. In 1992, the year Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, his state budget was $2 billion and among the smallest in the country. Compared to that, Sarah Palin is an executive giant.