The Journal of Politics


Concentrated Powers: Unilateral Executive Authority and Fiscal Policymaking in the American States

George A. Krausea1 and Benjamin F. Meluskya2

a1 University of Pittsburgh

a2 University of Pittsburgh


Although executive authority is a critical element in separation of powers systems, an excessive amount is not conducive for responsible policymaking behavior. Unilateral executive powers allow elected executives to pursue policies consistent with their short-term electoral incentives. This proposition is tested by analyzing the relationship between the exercise of unilateral executive control over fiscal policymaking and fiscal-spending growth in the American states. The empirical evidence reveals that exercising some amount of unconstrained policymaking authority with a unitary elected executive promotes higher fiscal-spending growth. These effects systematically vary between Democratic and Republican governors. Specifically, fiscal-spending growth under Democratic governors reaches its apex when they possess either unilateral control over revenue forecasts or budget formulation, whereas, unilateral control over both policymaking tools yields the greatest fiscal-spending growth under Republican governors. This study underscores the benefits associated with constraining executive authority through shared policymaking authority arrangements in separation of powers systems.

George A. Krause is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.

Benjamin F. Melusky is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.