The power structure of government established in the Articles of Confederation was rebalanced in the Constitution to ensure that both the central and the regional governments had some degree of authority and autonomy. Federal and state governments have managed to work out sharing power throughout history, with the federal government often using fiscal policy to encourage compliance from the states. The taxing power of local governments means they face unique pressures during economic downturns.
Daniel Elazar’s theory argues, based on the cultural values of early immigrants who settled in different regions of the country, the United States is made up of three component cultures: individualistic, moralistic, and traditionalistic. Each culture views aspects of government and politics differently, particularly the nature and purpose of political competition and the role of citizen participation. Critics of the theory say the arrival of recent immigrants from other parts of the globe, the divide between urban and rural lifestyles in a particular state, and new patterns of diffusion and settlement across states and regions mean the theory is no longer an entirely accurate description of reality.
Governors are called upon to work with the state legislature in the lawmaking process, to be the head of their political party, and to be the chief spokespersons and crisis managers for their states. State constitution or state statutes give many governors the power to veto legislation, pardon or commute the sentences of convicted criminals, author a state budget, and call a special session of the state legislature. The three key functions performed by state legislatures are lawmaking, constituency service, and oversight. Legislatures differ in size, diversity, party composition, and level of professionalism across the fifty states.
Whether they cap lifetime service or consecutive terms, term limits have become popular in many states, though some have overturned them as unconstitutional. Proponents believe term limits increase voter participation, encourage more women and minorities to run for office, and help bring diversity and fresh ideas to the legislature. Opponents point to research showing that diversity has not increased in term-limit states, and that younger and less experienced legislators tend to rely more on lobbyists for information about proposed bills. Finally, voters disappointed at losing their favorites may fail to go to the polls.
County governments can adopt the commission system, the council-administrator system, and the council-elected executive system of government to carry out their functions, which usually include the work of the sheriff, the county clerk, the assessor, the treasurer, the coroner, and the engineer. Municipal governments can use the mayor-council system or the council-manager system and manage services such as the provision of clean water, park maintenance, and local law enforcement. Cities and counties both rely on tax revenues, especially property taxes, to fund their provision of services.