Op-ed: Analyzing the importance of a governor

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 stephanie.sing­er@phila.gov or vis­it www.Phil­adelphiaVotes.com ••

Stephanie Sing­er

Phil­adelphia City Com­mis­sion­er

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