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A Legacy of Innovation

Governors and Public Policy

Edited by Ethan G. Sribnick

Publication Year: 2013

From La Follette to Faubus, from Rockefeller to Reagan, U.S. governors have addressed some of the most contentious policy questions of the twentieth century. In doing so, they not only responded to dramatic changes in the political landscape, they shaped that landscape. The influence of governors has been felt both within the states and across the nation. It is telling that four of the last five U.S. Presidents were former state governors.

A Legacy of Innovation: Governors and Public Policy examines the changing role of the state governor during the "American Century." In this volume, top political scientists, historians, and journalists track the evolution of gubernatorial leadership as it has dealt with critical issues, including conservation, transportation, civil rights, education, globalization, and health care. As the most visible state officials, twentieth-century governors often found themselves at the center of America's conflicting political tendencies. A Legacy of Innovation describes how they negotiated the tensions between increasing democratization and the desire for expert control, the rise of interest groups and demise of political parties, the pull of regionalism against growing nationalism, and the rising demand for public services in a society that fears centralized government. In their responses to these conflicts, governors helped shape the institutions of modern American government.

As state governments face new policy challenges in the twenty-first century, A Legacy of Innovation will serve as a valuable source of information for political scientists and policy makers alike.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

We live, to a great extent, in a country that governors helped create. It is interesting to note that seventeen state governors in our nation’s history have become president—seven of them over the course of the twentieth century. Perhaps more significantly, four out of the past five presidents were former governors, ...

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Introduction: Directing Democracy

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pp. 1-22

If the states are the "laboratories of democracy," to quote Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, governors have been the lab directors. And like scientific lab directors over the course of the twentieth century, governors developed a new set of skills to deal with the constantly changing environment in which they worked. ...

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Part I: Creativity Within the Confines of Federalism

The twentieth century witnessed massive growth in the federal government. In many policy areas, federal expansion preempted action by the governors and the states. The chapters in this section, however, demonstrate that the extension of federal power has not put an end to state innovation and experimentation. ...

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1. Resourceful Leaders: Governors and the Politics of the American Environment

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pp. 25-47

Over the twentieth century, a commitment to economic growth has generated a powerful political consensus that crosses both partisan and regional boundaries. Most politicians have viewed growth either as a democratic end in itself, or as the source of public resources for reform and the raw material for interventionist economic management. ...

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2. ''To Lay and Collect'': Governors, Fiscal Federalism, and the Political Economy of Twentieth-Century Tax Policy

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pp. 48-75

Throughout the twentieth century, state governments and the individuals who have led them have played a vital role in the development of American tax policy. From the Progressive Era search for equitable and effective tax systems to the conservative property tax revolts of the 1970s, governors have been critical participants in a century-long debate over tax reform. ...

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3. Governors and the Development of American Social Policy

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pp. 76-104

The history of welfare policy in the United States is in large part a story of the shift of responsibility for the health and well-being of Americans from families and local community organizations to government and from local and state government to the federal government. ...

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Part II: Laboratories of Democracy: Public Policy in Action

Over the twentieth century, governors achieved some of their greatest successes by working within their states. Faced with particular issues and demands unique to their polity, governors experimented with their own solutions. The chapters in this section focus on the work of specific governors in particular eras. ...

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4. Governors and Economic Development

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pp. 107-123

Among the greatest changes in the gubernatorial role during the past century has been the emergence of governors as promoters of economic development. In 1908 voters did not expect their governors to provide jobs or generate business; regulation of corporate excesses took higher priority. ...

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5. Uneasy Executives: Governors and Civil Rights from the Bay State to the Old Dominion

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pp. 124-148

The history of American governors almost always appears—in scholarly works, in popular images, and in statistical sketches—as a tale of white men and women. Among more than 2,300 governors of American states, just sixteen have identified themselves as racial minorities. ...

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6. Balancing Economic Development with Investor Protection

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pp. 149-166

When it comes to regulating business, governors have often had to reconcile the contradictory pressures inherent in a federalist system. On the one hand, they need to look after their states by attracting and nurturing businesses that can generate badly needed jobs and tax revenue. ...

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Part III: Collective Action: Governors and Federal Policy

The history of the federal system in the United States has largely been written as a history of conflict. There is good reason for this; contention among the states and between the states and the national government has typified much of our history. ...

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7. Moving the Nation: Governors and the Development of American Transportation Policy

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pp. 169-184

Every American confronts issues of transportation: their daily commute, the products they buy and sell, the place where they work are all intimately connected with the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Most of us take this system of roads, rails, and planes for granted. ...

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8. Gubernatorial Leadership and American K-12 Education Reform

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pp. 185-203

The history of state-level public policy in America is one of centralization and modernization. Yet, all policy areas did not proceed at the same pace. In some realms, like transportation, states took control early in the twentieth century. ...

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9. From Charity Care to Medicaid: Governors, States, and the Transformation of American Health Care

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pp. 204-230

Throughout the twentieth century, state governments in the United States have taken responsibility for health care policymaking. States regulate hospitals and outpatient clinics, they determine licensure for the plethora of health care providers, and they plan and direct the building and development of our health care infrastructure. ...

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Afterword: A Legacy of State-Building

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pp. 231-232

This volume provides a starting point for evaluating the role of American governors in shaping public policy. The chapters above document the central role governors played in confronting many of the major challenges faced by the American republic. ...


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pp. 242-249

Timeline of Governors and States in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 233-256


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pp. 257-298

Further Resources

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pp. 299-300

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List of Contributors

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pp. 301-304

Brian Balogh is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and co-director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs American Political Development Program. ...


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pp. 305-312

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pp. 313-330

The number of individuals responsible for creating this book is too voluminous to list. However, it is necessary to point out a few for thanks. David Shreve deserves particular thanks for his role in putting this volume together. Clayton McClure Brooks, Eric Vettel, and others at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209006
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812240955

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013