Regional Government Structure and the Distribution of Public Investment
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
One dimension that has not been explored in the context of regional governance is the power of local actors within the regional governments. Scholars have noted that rational choice theory does not offer clear answers about how power fits into an institutional model of decision-making (Moe 2005) and the political process may give rise to institutions that benefit some actors but are coercive for others, depending on who has the power (Ostrom et al. 1988; Moe 2005). Even some researchers supporting the ICA framework claim that regional governance may be better understood by the uncovering power relationships, above and beyond considerations of competition and coordination mechanisms (Jones 2009).
This paper explores the link between power and the distribution of public investment in regional governance by studying the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) that plan and allocate region-wide public investment on transportation. Rules for which jurisdictions place members on MPO governing boards vary across MPOs, meaning that power relationships among board members and across jurisdictions do as well. We measure the degree of power held by each member of an MPO’s governing board using the Shapley-Shubik index (1954). Then, using detailed transportation expenditure data of MPOs in Texas that includes spatial information on projects and the roster of governing board membership of the MPOs during 2001-2010, we develop and test three hypotheses.
- Local governments with more power on the governing board should see more resources flow to their jurisdiction.
- As power becomes more evenly distributed, a more even distribution of resources should be observed because fewer members can exercise power.
- Exercise of power should be positively associated with the ease of coalition-building among governing board members.
By examining how regional governments distribute public investment given power relationships and whether the objectives of the few with more power are prioritized over the objectives of the region as a whole, our results will have broader implications on regional policymaking and governing processes, which will inform discussions of reform of the structure of regional government to improve outcomes.