For many months leading up to the gubernatorial election, news coverage and advertisements bombard potential voters with political appeals, information, and "expert opinions" about the best person for the job. All of this attention naturally leads to the expectation that the Governor must have enormous influence over politics and policy in the state. The public, and even some governors, are surprised to discover the limited powers and resources that are actually available to the Governor. To be sure, the Governor exercises vast resources compared to the average citizen; but expectations far surpass the actual powers vested in the Governor. View a table comparing policy powers of the Texas governor's office with governors of other states.
What happened to the executive powers we expect to find in a governor's hands? In Texas, they are dispersed throughout the executive branch of the state government, in a series of elected offices, commissions, and boards. Because several elected officials share many of the powers typically invested in one office, the term often used to refer to these arrangements is the plural executive. The dispersal of executive powers among the different elements of the executive branch requires the Governor to use carefully those powers that are put directly in his or her hands.