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Melusky, Benjamin (2016) INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY IN THE AMERICAN STATES. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In a separation of powers system, delicately calibrated to defend against the destabilizing effect of concentrating power in any one branch, why then does each branch seek to increase its level of power relative to the other branches? The answer to this question lies in our understanding of these institutional powers, the formal and informal tools either unilaterally controlled or shared with the other independent branches of government, which constitute what is known as institutional capacity. However, institutional capacity is a complex, multidimensional concept, which is not easily observed nor easily understood (e.g. Gargan 1981). My dissertation focuses on exploring the concept of institutional capacity within three salient American state government topics, to show that institutional capacity affords political actors the ability to pursue their various electoral, institutional, and policy goals, and thus each branch endeavors to increase its level of capacity relative to the other branches. The high level of variation across political institutions in the American states provides varying degrees of institutional power sharing and power dominance which offer important implications for our broader understanding of democratic theory a separation of powers as expressed by Madison. I show that the ability of political actors in the American states is constrained by the historical changes in the institutional capacity of both governors and state legislatures, and despite the historical dominance of governors in the policy-making and budgetary arena, state legislatures possess the capacity to undermine governors under certain conditions, particularly in budgetary realms and under periods of divided partisan control of the state government. These findings offer support for the professionalism movement in the American states which drove much of this institutional change and altered the (im)balance of power between the branches, and echo the claim that it is easy to “invent a government and devise a strong executive” yet it is much harder “to devise a strong legislature that can survive transfers of power and shifts of party control” (Loftus 1994: 63).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Melusky, Benjaminbfm8@pitt.eduBFM80000-0002-9871-476X
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKrause, Georgegkrause@pitt.eduGKRAUSE
Committee MemberKanthak, Kristinkanthak@pitt.eduKANTHAK
Committee MemberWoon, Jonathanwoon@pitt.eduWOON
Committee MemberPhillips,
Date: 21 January 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 October 2015
Approval Date: 21 January 2016
Submission Date: 25 August 2015
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 369
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Institutional Capacity, American States, Budget Impasse, Budgeting, Economic Development, Legislative Pay, Legislative Retirement
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2016 21:18
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:30


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