Four Years for the Governor
Once again the state legislature has before it a proposal to extend the governor's term from two to four years. Although a similar measure passed two years ago, state law requires that a constitutional amendment pass two legislative sessions before it goes to the voters. While last year's bill was subverted by a bit of parliamentary skullduggery, the proposal will go on a state-wide referendum if it gets by the present session.
The arguments for a four year term are well-known and scarcely need repeating. Most of them stem from the fact that the shorter term is an outdated political idea. The governor's role as a planner and initiator of legislation is now greater than ever in Massachusetts history. If an administrator is to start any program of lasting effect, he should be given time for long-range planning, free from a biennial campaign. Many states, including New York and Pennsylvania, have found the four year term successful.
Although members of both parties support the longer term, the present Republican-sponsored proposal is likely to face stiff opposition from the Democratic majority in the House. The bill provides that the first four year term should begin in 1958, an off-year; Democrats claim that the gubernatorial and presidential races should be simultaneous to ensure the largest possible turn-out at the polls. The Republicans, on the other hand, support the off-year proposal because they claim that vital state issues have to take a back seat during presidential campaigns.
Although each position has its merits, the conflicting claims only conceal the fact that both parties feel that the Democrats fare better in a national election year. This analysis is, however, dubious; things have often gone the other way. The Democrats in particular should look more favorable on off-year gubernatorial elections after their success in 1954. In any case, the date is relatively unimportant. The Democrats should be willing to sacrifice a doubtful political advantage for the merit of having a governor who is capable of long-term planning. Because 1958 is the date on the initial measure passed two years ago, the Democrats, if they insist on a different year, would make it necessary for another session to approve the amendment before it would go the people. The increasing need for a four year term does not permit the luxuries of unimportant party squabbles and further delays.