Discuss the informal and formal powers of the Texas Governor

krcavnar | Student

The Texas governor has less formal powers than most other governors.  A Texas governor must use the power of persuasion, personality and media in order to effectively govern the state. A great guide to compare Texas against the powers of the U.S. President and other governors can be found at http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/exec/features/0400_01.html.

 In Texas the powers of the executive office are spread throughout a series of elected offices, commissions, and boards. The term is called the “plural executive” as several elected officials share many of the powers typically invested in one office.  Voters elect several key offices – including the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller of Public Accounts. These officials may not have any loyalty to the governor and may seek to undermine his term in office.  The Governor also has less influence in the area of the state budget than other governors.  The law allows the Governor to transferring money between programs or agencies to meet emergency needs, though such transfers must be approved by the LBB. The Governor may use this power to draw attention to the needs or issues that arise within the state and can put political opponents within the LBB in a defensive status. 

There are approximately 200 boards, commissions, and agencies that oversee the daily operation of government, and the governor makes several hundred appointments to these various entities. These appointments allow the Governor to place loyal people in critical state government positions.  The Governor may use these positions as a way of rewarding his supporters or by placing people in these positions to set or maintain a specific tone for the office.  The Governor’s appointment power is limited by the two-thirds approval/confirmation of the Senate. However, the Governor may appoint people without confirmation during periods when the legislature is not in session and that person may hold office until the legislature convenes.

A Texas governor has constitutional requirement to address the public.  A Governor must deliver a message to open the legislative session, must give biennial budget message, and a retirement message at the end of the session. The Governor may also give “emergency” messages as needed throughout his term.  This is a formal power that allows the Governor to attempt to persuade and put forth his personal views and political agenda.  This political power, if used strategically, may help offset the limited formal powers of the office.