Use of Executive Orders by New Jersey Governors: 1947-2013


New Jersey governors have issued executive orders for a wide range of purposes, including facilitating routine government operations, responding to crises, and instituting significant policy changes. While governors need no prior legislative or judicial approval, any order they issue can face a legal challenge if it appears to exceed the governor’s constitutional powers.

All New Jersey governors elected since the current State Constitution was adopted in 1947 have relied on Article V as authority for issuing executive orders. As the table below indicates, the average number issued per year ranges from single digits during the administrations of Governors Driscoll, Meyner and Hughes up to more than 40 by Governors McGreevey and Corzine and 67.52 during Governor Codey’s tenure.

The absolute number of executive orders is not a reliable indicator of comparative leadership styles. For example, the two executive orders during this 63-year period generally considered the most far-reaching are those issued by Governors Byrne and Kean to severely restrict new development in the Pinelands and freshwater wetlands respectively. With an average of about 14 and 28 orders per year, however, those two governors are in the middle of this group in terms of frequency of use of this power.


Governor                        Tenure      No. of
Exec Orders
in Office
Average No. of Exec.
Orders Per Year   
Alfred E. Driscoll 1947-1954 39 7.00 5.57
Robert B. Meyner 1954-1962 32 8.00 4.00
Richard J. Hughes 1962-1970 61 8.00 7.63
William T. Cahill 1970-1974 57 4.00 14.25
Brendan T. Byrne 1974-1982 113 8.00 14.13
Thomas H. Kean 1982-1990 226 8.00 28.25
James J. Florio 1990-1994 115 4.00 28.75
Christine T.Whitman 1994-2001 123 7.04 17.47
Donald D. DiFrancesco* 2001-2002 15 0.94 15.96
John O. Bennett* 2002 1 4.00
Richard J.Codey* 2002 3 3.00
James J. McGreevey 2002-2004 139 2.84 48.94
Richard J. Codey* 2004-2006 79 1.17 67.52
Jon S. Corzine 2006-2010 167 4.00 41.75
Christopher Christie 2010-present** 145 4.00 36.25

    * Assumed governorship after previous governor resigned the office.

    ** Chart includes Governor Christie’s Executive Orders through the end of 2013.