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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The weakness of the office of the governor in North Carolina

Scott claims that he never felt particularly powerful when he was governor. He describes the weakness of the governor's office when he was in power and since, despite some changes that have expanded executive authority. The governor's authority is, of course, secure within the executive branch.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

One of the things about the power of the governor—many people think of it as great, maybe very great, and yet, as governor, did you feel that you were a powerful person?
Only in the sense of satisfying my ego. [Laughter] In a practical way, no, I never felt that, and I don't think the governor of North Carolina has ever been a very powerful governor. One could point to certain governors who accomplished a number of things. But that was by the power of persuasion and by political skills, not by the power given to them by authority. The governor's power in relation to that of the legislative branch has, I think, historically been weak in this state. And even with the veto power now, it's still weak, because it's not a strong veto. It's limited. Very much. And then, again, with the legislature imposing itself on activities of the executive branch more and more by virtue of naming their members as boards and commissions. An example is the state board of community colleges. Well, the law was amended to provide that two members of that board come from the senate and two members come from the house. And they don't control the board, but they're on there. Or they are, you know, requiring more and more that gubernatorial appointments be confirmed by the senate. Those kinds of things—what I'm saying is, the legislature has increased its own powers through law, not the constitution but through law, in relation to the powers of the governor. Which makes the governor, even though they gave him the veto power, relatively speaking, he's still a weak—the office is rather weak in its power and authority. The legislature has gotten more and more into executive branch affairs through the budget process, and by the, what do they call it, the footnotes to the budget, where they'll say, "X million dollars hereby appropriated for thus-and-so", and then they got—it's not the footnotes, what do they call it. Anyway, they're right down there in the fine print, "and it shall be thus-and-so", and they dictate how that money's going to be spent, right on down the line. Which is legal, it's their right to do it, but the governor asks for X number of dollars for state parks, OK? The legislature appropriates X number of dollars for state parks, and the proviso is that of this amount of money, so many hundred thousand dollars will go to this particular state park, which happens to be in the home county of the chairman of the appropriations committee. Those ought to be executive decisions, but in fact they are legislative decisions. So, getting back to your original question, I think the governor of North Carolina's powers still, relative to the legislature, are weak.
How much influence did you have within the executive branch—not talking about the legislature, but within the executive branch—to shape what you wanted to happen, during your term?
I think there the governor's influence is much greater. Even though we had the long bout with the elected Council of State members, those—at least at that time, and still is, they are a number from the same party. And so there is a cooperative spirit, it is not partisan. And it's not a problem for the governor if, you know, you use normal communication skills and being cooperative on matters, it's not difficult for the governor to exert influence.