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Chair's Column
By Robert Kravchuk

October on campus feels like the busiest month of the year. Classes are in full swing. Midterms are held and the papers and assignments mount up on our respective desks.

For public finance practitioners, there are budgets to actually manage, and end of year financials to complete and present. If an election creates change, uncertainty only adds to the stress of the workload of debt issuances, forecast updates and most challenging, managing employees.

Lest we forget the conferences. ABFM’s 2015 Conference featured more than 130 papers from an international cast of researchers across the academic and professional spectrum. Our plenary panels recognizing income inequality and the 40th anniversaries of the MSRB and CBO featured an all-star gathering of professionals who have made, and are making, phenomenal contributions to our field.

With everything happening, it’s important to remember why we dedicate ourselves to working with governments and nonprofits. A week after our conference, the family of one of my faculty members dealt with a stressful ordeal as their son and nephew were missing overnight while on a camping trip. 

With the rapid response of multiple local and state agencies, as countless volunteers, the two children were found within 24 hours. Both children recovered quickly, and the family finished its camping trip.

Personal experiences like this remind us why our work matters. While society may debate some (or a lot) of what government does, and how government does it, moments like this showcase the importance of the essential services requiring the brunt of a jurisdictions’ financial and human resources.

In closing, I want to thank our First Responders everywhere, especially those who helped our friend and his family earlier this month. I also want to again congratulate Carolyn Bourdeaux, Deborah Carroll and everyone else who worked on making this year’s conference successful (and profitable).

And now, on with every professor’s favorite activity: grading.
2015 Conference Exceeds Expectations
By Carolyn Bourdeaux, ABFM Chair-Elect

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful ABFM 2015 conference! It was great seeing everyone, the quality of the scholarship was high, and the speakers were inspiring. I greatly appreciated the work of the many people who played a role in making the conference a success.

Ken Hunter is working on posting photos and videos from the conference, which will be available on the ABFM website.. Conference attendees should also receive a post-conference survey in the coming weeks. We greatly appreciate any feedback about the conference as well as ways we can improve going forward.

A few items for those who were not able to attend the ABFM organizational meeting:

  1. This year's conference had 268 attendees.
  2. Scholars and practitioners submitted a significant number of papers to the conference, and we applied a very selective process to ensure quality of those presented. 37% of the paper proposals were not accepted or were moved to the poster session.
  3. Conference fundraising experienced a banner year with approximately $50,000 pledged and received. Special thanks to Jonathan Justice and Amber Slyter for their good work in this area, and many, many thanks to the member organizations who supported the conference!

Our biggest challenge for 2016 is growing ABFM's membership. I’ve asked our newest Executive Committee board member, Mark Robbins, to be Chair of the Membership Committee and develop strategies to address this issue. Wie Yusuf and Jerry Zhao will also serve on this committee. Any suggestions or thoughts about ways to bring new scholars or interested practitioners into our community are welcome.

I look forward to seeing everyone next year in Seattle!

Conference Session Videos Now Available!

Videos from three special sessions are now available for viewing on the PublicFinanceTV Youtube Channel. Additional videos of the poster session and awards banquet will be posted soon. Click on the links below to view each session:
Alliance Calls on Universities to Help Expand Truth in State Budgeting Research
Contributed by The Volcker Alliance


The Volcker Alliance laid out plans to expand the Truth and Integrity in Government Finance project in partnership with universities to a group of more than 60 public finance professors and graduate students at a luncheon hosted by the Alliance during the annual meeting of the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management this month in Washington, D.C.

Bill Glasgall, Alliance state and local programs director, and Matt Fabian, partner at the Alliance’s budget data consultant, Municipal Market Analytics Inc., explained to the guests, from public administration and public policy programs across the U.S., why working with universities will be key to the growth of the Truth and Integrity project from the initial 3 states – California, New Jersey, and Virginia – to all 50.

“Locally based public finance professors are best situated to gather data about their own regions,” Glasgall told the ABFM audience. In addition, scrutiny of state budget practices by academics will provide graduate students with opportunities for further research, including capstone projects, he said, helping further the Alliance’s goal of strengthening public administration education. “This project definitely provides good opportunity for students who are interested in the field of public finance and budgeting,” David Guo, associate professor of public administration at Florida International University, commented by e-mail after the lunch meeting.

Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Lessons from Three States built on the findings of the State Budget Crisis Task Force, chaired by Alliance founder Paul A. Volcker and Richard Ravitch, an alliance director and former New York State lieutenant governor. The Alliance’s study, released in June, garnered media coverage by the New York TimesWall Street JournalFinancial TimesBloomberg,Reuters, and CNN. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) both endorsed the Alliance’s preliminary report card and recommendations. Among the Alliance’s recommendations are improved budget transparency, including whether and how one-time sources are used to plug general fund deficits, as well as better revenue forecasting, rainy day fund procedures, and an end to borrowing to cover budget gaps. The report has also been assigned as course reading material at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University.

The Washington, D.C. luncheon included a discussion of ways the Truth and Integrity project’s initial screening criteria and analysis might be augmented, including adding measures for structural general fund deficits and surpluses, tax abatements, and credits for businesses and revenue volatility; the shifting of costs from state general funds to counties and municipalities; the vulnerability of states to federal spending decisions; and commitments to use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for budgets.

The Alliance plans to release a request for proposals, officially soliciting the involvement of interested universities in its 50-state study, before the end of the year.

CBO Director Shares Budget & Deficit Outlook

This morning, Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall shared his agency's latest long-term outlook on the Federal Budget at the American Business Conference. The outlook covered the standard 10-year horizon used by the CBO, going through fiscal year 2025.

Hall's presentation includes the following statistics and forecasts:
  • The fiscal year 2015 federal budget deficit was $439 billion, constituting 2.5% of GDP. Both measures are the lowest deficits since fiscal year 2007.
  • Annual budget deficits are projected to decline to 2% of GDP by fiscal year 2018, then move upward towards 4% of GDP in subsequent years.
  • Public holding of the net Federal Debt reached 74% of GDP in fiscal year 2015, and could grow to 77% by fiscal year 2025. The average public holding for the past 5 decades was 38%.
  • Federal outlays were approximately 21% of GDP in fiscal year 2015 and is expected to remain 21% to 22% over the next decade, in large part due to growing entitlement and healthcare spending.
  • Outlaws for health care and social security will grow from 10% to 12% of GDP over the next 10 years.
  • Interest rates on federal debt are expected to double over the next 10 years, from 1.7% in fiscal year 2015 to 3.6% in fiscal year 2025. This will increase the cost of federal debt service from currently 1.2% of GDP to 2.8% in 10 years.
Hall's presentation clearly expresses concern about the continued growth of the Federal Debt and its potential impact on future budgets, especially with regard to discretionary spending. If total outlays are to remain at a 22% of GDP level in fiscal year 2025, spending not tied to entitlements and debt service would decline from 9.7% currently to 7.3% in ten years (25% reduction).
State Budget Officers See Stability, Approach Future with Caution
By Scott Pattison, NASBO Executive Director

Originally Posted at NASBO Budget Blog

Budget officers from about half of the states gathered last week in the Washington, D.C. area to share information about their current fiscal situation. The states are in relatively good shape in the sixth year of recovery since the recession with mostly stable growth. Most states ended fiscal 2015 with a surplus, or at least saw revenues meet projections. State finance officials expect continued growth for the most part in fiscal 2016 but are cautious about the future as there is still an open question as to how well the economy will grow. 

Some concerns about the economy voiced at the recent gathering included weak sales tax growth and the impact of the latest volatility in the stock market and its effect on income tax revenues. Additionally, officials in energy states continue to monitor revenue collections due to low oil prices. Federal policy decisions including the most recent lack of certainty about keeping the government open and looming discussions about the debt ceiling also continue to be potential concerns for the overall economy. During the round table discussion, states discussed funding needs for transportation as well as tax credits, especially the timing of when the credits are taken and the impact on revenues.  

Overall, state budget officials expect continued growth and therefore stability in revenues but will approach the future with caution.

GASB Proposes Changes to Pension Standards for Multi-Employer Plan Jurisdictions

NEWS RELEASE) The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) today proposed new guidance intended to assist governments that participate in certain multiple-employer pension plans to meet the reporting requirements of GASB Statement No. 68, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions.

GASB Chairman David A. Vaudt said, “The GASB acted quickly in issuing this proposed guidance in response to stakeholder concerns regarding a situation that could make it difficult–or impossible–for some governments, through no fault of their own, to comply with the new pension standards.”

The proposed guidance would apply to governments that participate in certain private or federally-sponsored, multiple-employer defined benefit pension plans, such as Taft-Hartley plans or plans with similar characteristics.

During the implementation of GASB Statement 68, stakeholders raised concerns regarding the inability of governments whose employees are provided pension benefits through such multiple-employer pension plans to obtain information related to pensions required under Statement 68. Specifically, stakeholder concerns focused on the inability of those governments to obtain measurements and other relevant data points needed to comply with the requirements of the Statement.

To respond to these concerns, the GASB has issued an Exposure Draft, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Pensions Provided through Certain Multiple-Employer Defined Benefit Pension Plans, which proposes to assist these governments by focusing employer accounting and financial reporting requirements for those pension plans on obtainable information.

In lieu of the existing requirements under Statement 68, the proposed Statement would establish separate standards for employers that participate in pension plans that meet criteria set forth in the proposal. The guidance would establish separate standards for note disclosures of descriptive information about the plan, benefit terms, contribution terms, and required supplementary information presenting required contribution amounts for the past 10 fiscal years.

The full text of the Exposure Draft is available on the GASB website, Stakeholders are encouraged to review the proposal and provide comments by November 16, 2015.

Director, Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs, Witchita State University

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois-Chicago

Faculty Opening, Public Policy, University of Nebraska Omaha

Full/Associate Professor, Center for Public & Nonprofit Management, University of Central Florida

Assistant Professor, Public Budgeting & Finance, University of Central Florida

Assistant Professor, Public Administration, University of Central Florida

Assistant Professor, Public Budgeting & Financial Management, Louisiana State University

MPA Director, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Assistant/Associated Professor, Applied Microeconomics, SUNY-Albany

University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs (Multiple Positions)

Assistant/Associate Professor, Budgeting & Financial Management, American University

Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Cal State San Bernadino

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ABFM is a research section of the American Society for Public Administration

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We aim to promote the professional development of budgeting and financial management in the public and non-profit sectors. Embracing both theorectical and operational concerns, ABFM addresses issues in budgeting processes and practice in financial management.

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