Does it matter who is governor?
Most Americans can name the current president, while many wouldn’t even recognize the name of their state’s governor. Who is more important? Is the president the boss of the governor? Who affects your life more?
The president of the United States gets a lot of attention. Presidential elections create a lot of buzz, with debates, huge volunteer organizations and lots of television advertising. There are television shows about fictional presidents and bestselling books about real presidents. Famous comedians tell jokes about presidents. Every kid knows that “President of the United States” is a respectable answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There is no doubt that the president has awesome powers and responsibilities. Governors have awesome powers and responsibilities, too, especially governors of large states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And the president is not the boss of the governors.
Each governor is the top executive officer of his (or sometimes her) state. Governors
have enormous powers to determine how money will be spent. For example, some governors spent state money to help residents learn about and sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Other governors decided not to get involved. Governors decide
how to divide up a limited supply of money between schools, roads, prisons and other programs.
Governors play a large role in deciding how states will raise money, too. How much of
people’s salaries should go to the state? How much should corporations pay the state for the opportunity to drill for natural gas? How much money should people pay the state each time they buy alcohol or cigarettes or fill up a gas tank?
Like the president, a governor can do certain things unilaterally. At the same time,
the governor has an opportunity to make lasting changes and laws in cooperation with the state legislature. Many of the laws that affect our day-to-day lives are state laws. In some states, men can marry men; in others, they can’t. New Jersey grocery stores can sell wine; Pennsylvania grocery stores are forbidden to sell wine. In Colorado, it is legal to smoke marijuana! All these were put in place or maintained by governors working with legislatures.
In 2014, Pennsylvania will elect a governor for the next four-year term. You can find
out about candidates by searching the Internet for “Pennsylvania governor candidate 2014.”
You can call or write your local newspaper to let it know that you want to learn about the candidates. Contact the campaigns directly and ask about the issues that matter to you. The choice Pennsylvanians make at the polls this year will have direct consequences for the state for many years to come.
As always, don’t hesitate to contact my office for information about democracy and elections in Philadelphia. Call 215-686-3460, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.PhiladelphiaVotes.com ••
Philadelphia City Commissioner