September Updates for GRA Organizations

News from GRA

Watch this space for news of next year's conference.  Next year marks the 100th anniversary for GRA and we're looking for ways to make it special.

The GRA Board of Trustees wishes to thank Joe Stefko from CGR for his continued commitment to representing GRA on the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council.  The Board has nominated Joe to serve a second 2-year term.

Publications Since May...

Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama

The PARCA Perspective
A look at 2013 National ACT Results and an analysis of Alabama’s scores compared to other states nationwide.  The Perspective also examines an administrative practices study performed by PARCA, and the significant outcome for one school system in Alabama.

Illinois Fiscal Policy Council and Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois

During legislative sessions the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois publishes "TFI Report from the Capitol," a weekly summary of legislative and administrative developments as well as recent reports on tax and fiscal issues.

Testimony by J. Thomas Johnson to the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee on Sales Tax Sourcing
Taxpayers' Federation President Emeritus J. Thomas Johnson testified on May 2, 2013 before the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee about sales tax sourcing.

Civic Federation

City Colleges of Chicago FY2014 Tentative Budget: Analysis and Recommendations
The Civic Federation supported the City Colleges tentative FY2014 budget totaling $657.0 million for continuing the District's exemplary work to improve its financial and operational health. The FY2014 proposed budget held the property tax levy flat for the fourth consecutive year and reduced the unrestricted operating portion of the budget by 6.9% or $21.1 million. The Civic Federation commended City Colleges for prudently addressing uncertainties related to the State of Illinois' financial distress.

Chicago Public Schools FY2014 Proposed Budget: Analysis and Recommendations
The Civic Federation did not support the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) proposed $6.6 billion operating budget for FY2014, which will completely draw down unrestricted reserve funds and use some restricted reserves to close a $977 million budget deficit. Even after the pain of layoffs and school closings, the District's long-term fiscal health remains in jeopardy absent pension reform. The Federation acknowledged that the District's budgetary options are severely constrained by the Illinois General Assembly's inaction on pension reform. The report recommended that the District proactively develop and present its own reform plan tied to a long-term financial plan that stabilizes the budget. The District should also strongly consider reducing benefits, increasing employee and employer contributions and reforming governance.

Status of Local Pension Funding Fiscal Year 2011
Chicago-area public employee pension funding levels dropped significantly in FY2011, with unfunded liabilities for the ten funds analyzed rising to $32.0 billion from $27.4 billion in FY2010, an increase of 16.7% according to the most recent audited data available. The Federation's analysis is based on FY2011 actuarial valuation reports and financial statements for the City's Police, Fire, Municipal and Laborers' Funds, the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund and the pension funds of Cook County, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Chicago Park District, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the Chicago Transit Authority. This annual report is intended to provide policymakers, pension trustees, pension fund members and taxpayers with the resources to make informed decisions regarding public employee retirement benefits.

State of Illinois FY2014 Recommended Operating and Capital Budgets: Analysis and Recommendations
The Civic Federation supported Governor Pat Quinn's $62.4 billion FY2014 recommended operating budget for balancing revenues and expenditures without borrowing and making progress toward reducing the State's backlog of unpaid bills. However, the Federation noted that the budget proposal was only a stopgap that further demonstrated the urgent need for comprehensive pension reform. The full report also included recommendations for expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, establishing a process for the executive and legislative branches to develop a consensus revenue estimate prior to publication of the Governor's budget, and developing a formal capital improvement plan and economic development policy.

The Civic Federation's two blogs were updated weekly throughout the summer: and

Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa

Fiscal Year 2014 City Budget Comparisons
TACI produced a presentation illustrating revenue and expenditure trends for Iowa's largest urban centers.  The presentation shows that most cities in Iowa are funded in large part by property taxes and spend the most on public safety.  Des Moines, Iowa's largest city, is no exception, spending 47% of its operating budget on public safety.  Conversely, TACI finds that Des Moines has increased public safety spending over the decade while decreasing culture and recreation spending; Des Moines has the smallest proportion of operating budget dedicated to culture and recreation of the cities included in the presentation.

How Much Exposure Do Iowa Taxpayers Have With Public Pension Plans?
After Detroit's trouble with public pensions was made public, TACI took a magnifying glass to Iowa's public pension system.  In this article, TACI notes that while Iowa is generally considered to have a stable public pension system, there remain significant risks to taxpayers associated with public benefit plans.  As Iowa's state pension plan (IPERS) continues to lose funding, Iowa residents may be forced to shoulder the burden via increased taxes and fewer public services.

Bureau of Governmental Research

S&WB Should Delay Search for a New Leader
In this release, BGR urges the Sewerage & Water Board to delay initiating the search for a new executive director until after voters decide on governance reforms.
BGR Letter Addresses S&WB Reform Effort
In an open letter to the Louisiana Legislature, BGR sets forth its positions on evolving legislation to reform the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans.

The Hotel Assessment: A Question of Priorities, a Question of Propriety
In this release, BGR examines a proposal to impose what amounts to a new hotel tax.

S&WB Governance Reform: The Next Steps Forward
In this release, BGR discusses possible amendments to the evolving Sewerage & Water Board Reform legislation and recommends improvements.  

PAR Louisiana

Commentary: Proposed health care fee system limits Legislature's budget flexibility

PAR Issues Letter on 2013-2014 Budget Amendments

PAR Issues Letter on Senate Bill 148

Worcester Regional Research Bureau

Worcester by the Numbers: Housing and Land Use
This report, the third in our series Worcester by the Numbers, provides detailed data on the housing market, land use, and property taxes. To view the entire series of reports, go to   

Citizens Research Council of Michigan

What did the Drafters of Michigan's Constitution Intend with Article IX, Section 24?
The meaning of this provision in the Michigan Constitution is being debated in relation to the possibility of cutting pension benefits in Detroit. The Article IX, Section 24 provision was intended to: 1) secure pensions for public employees and prevent the public employer from altering those benefits later on, and 2) to require public employers to place the correct amount of money into its pension fund each year in order to prevent the employers from using pension funds for other expenses. The CRC looks at how this provision may be used to protect pensions in Chapter 9 bankruptcy cases and raises questions as to the extent of protections these public pensions should receive.

Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence

The July/August 2013 edition of "Fiscal Focus" includes lessons in tax policy and a look at municipal credit downgrades.  The Center will be discussing business tax incentives at its annual meeting on October 2.

The May/June 2013 of the publication "Fiscal Focus" includes an analysis of the Minnesota budget, property tax changes, and the need for some regressive forms of taxation.

Minnesota’s Troubled ‘Price of Government.’
Since the early 1990s, the Minnesota Price of Government (POG) has been calculated to measure and track state and local government’s claim on Minnesota income.  However, since its inception, the composition of Minnesota Personal Income -- a foundation of the price of government calculation -- has changed dramatically making common interpretations and uses of the POG problematic at best and distorting at worst.  This brief finds that if policymakers want to maintain a POG-type measure, the state should modify the current metric by replacing Minnesota Personal Income with some measure of money income.  Even with this adaptation, the Center encourages caution in using the POG to assess the affordability of government or set a "price target" for government because some of the major demographic factors and trends affecting income will continue for the indefinite future.

Center for Governmental Research

The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State
CGR, funded by the New York State Health Foundation, analyzed the challenges that publicly-owned nursing homes across the state face and the results of shifting nursing homes to the private sector. There has been a steady decrease in the number of county-owned nursing homes over the past fifteen years and the number is predicted to fall even more rapidly over the next several years. Challenges include rising costs, the growing elderly population, and uncertain state and federal funding. CGR notes that privatization results have been mixed. This report offers a comprehensive picture of county-owned nursing homes in NY, including analysis of selling versus closing nursing homes, divestiture options, the funding for homes, and potential internal operations and management improvements.  

Rochester Has Lowest Monthly Premiums in the Affordable Care Act's Exchange
NYS's Health Insurance Marketplace premiums were released in July and show that premiums under the Affordable Care Act in the individual market are considerably lower than current individual rates.  CGR also notes that Rochester has the lowest monthly premiums in the state, in large part due to the "Rochester model" of healthcare that includes unique levels of cooperation between health care providers and local businesses. The relationship between premiums, the number of people who seek health care insurance, and health care costs are explored.

What Killed Detroit?
CGR's Kent Gardner points to Henry Ford, the Japanese, the United Auto Workers, racism, and isolation as factors in Detroit's demise. Ultimately, the auto-industry's lack of innovation and a culture of strong racism isolating the city from the suburbs and the state contributed. Questions of what Detroit's bankruptcy means for the city and the nation are raised as well.

Enhancing Local Government Efficiency: 5 Steps to a Successful Outcome
CGR, in concert with GovWorks Consulting, produced a Webinar with guidelines on how local governments can operate more efficiently through steps such as sharing services or consolidating, based on the successful consolidation of two municipalities in Princeton, NJ.

N.C. Center for Public Policy Research

Article II:  A Citizen’s Guide to the 2013-2014 North Carolina Legislature
The guide contains profiles and photos of each of the 170 members of the General Assembly; business and home addresses; telephone and fax numbers; counties in their districts; the number of terms they have served in the legislature; and their educational and occupational backgrounds.  For members who served in the 2011-2012 session, the guide lists five bills they introduced in that session and their votes on 12 bills of statewide interest.  It also includes past rankings of each returning legislator's attendance, roll call voting participation, and effectiveness.  Article II also contains important information for citizens, lobbyists, and reporters, including each legislator's political party affiliation, home county, current legislative office address and telephone number, e-mail address at the General Assembly, legislative seat number, and all committee assignments.  The guide shows seating charts in the House and Senate, committee meeting schedules, and deadlines for introducing various kinds of bills and resolutions.  The guide also includes demographic and occupational trends for the General Assembly since 1993.  Finally, the 2013-2014 guide includes rankings of the most influential lobbyists in the legislature, the latest of which were released in July 2012. The Center has published a guide to the legislature since 1977.

An Analysis of the Mental Health Work Force in North Carolina
Until now basic data about the mental health work force has been unavailable.  This study finds that the state employs more than 10,000 people in its mental health system.  The work force is aging with Baby Boomers accounting for 48.2 percent.  The nursing job branch is the single largest category of employees in the state’s mental health system with almost 6,000 employees.  More than half of the work force does not have more than a high school diploma.  With this data, the state is better able to evaluate whether its pipeline of workers is adequate.  The state continues to need to track data on job tenure and wages so that it can better understand trends in turnover.

Pennsylvania Economy League

Pennsylvania Economy League Analysis Shows Economic and Fiscal Benefit to State with Medicaid Expansion
The Pennsylvania Economy League, Inc. (PEL) and the PA Health Funders Collaborative (PHFC) released a new report that shows that expanding Medicaid to low-income Pennsylvanians as part of the Affordable Care Act would increase economic activity in the state and result in fiscal savings, despite state cost increases over time.

Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR)

Land Use in Tennessee--Striking a Balance
A new Commission report released by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) that presents the findings of the Commission on seven land use bills referred to it for study during the 107th General Assembly. These bills focused on what constitutes a subdivision, who gets to regulate land use outside city limits in areas set aside for them to annex, roads built by developers, and grandfathering of land uses that don’t conform to new zoning requirements.

Tracking Tennessee’s Economic Recovery
TACIR has partnered with the Middle Tennessee State University Business and Economic Research Center to provide an Internet site to track the state economy during the recovery from the recession that began in December 2007. The site will permit the reader to follow labor force status including employment and unemployment numbers; housing data including a housing price index and construction activity; and sales tax collections.

The Utah Foundation

Climbing Toward the American Dream:  A Second Analysis of Economic Mobility in Utah
The report finds that financial inequality between the rich and the poor has been rising in the United States and in Utah over the past few decades.  While such inequality has been connected to societal challenges, these challenges may be mitigated by economic mobility, or the ability of people to move up and down the economic ladder.  

The Utah Foundation found that mobility has decreased for Utahns -- more people stayed within their respective income groups in the most recent nine-year period.  The report also looks at mobility across generations, income and wealth, income inequality, and household ownership.

Sagebrush Rebellion Part II: Analysis of the Public Lands Debate in Utah
In Utah, nearly 67 percent of the state’s total acreage, or 35 million acres, is owned by the federal government.  In 2012, the Utah State Legislature passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which demands that the United States transfer an estimated 20 million acres of public lands to the State of Utah before December 31, 2014.  This report analyzes the pros and cons of the transfer of federal land to state control, including whether it would help the state close its education funding gap.

Public Policy Forum

2013 Salute to Local Government
In commemoration of its 100th anniversary, the Forum gave individual awards for local government and school district officials in four categories tied to the organization's 100-year history. The honorees participated in a panel discussion on "Attracting and Retaining High-Performing Personnel in the Public Sector."

Community-Led Arts Education Models in the U.S.
In this research report, the Forum summarizes preliminary findings with regard to the potential for implementing a community-wide model for providing arts education in Milwaukee. The report summarizes the state of the literature on the topic and examines programs in other cities in addition to evaluating the state of arts education in the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Property Values and Taxes in Southeast Wisconsin
This annual publication examines analyzes property value and tax trends within the seven-county Southeast Wisconsin region. This year's report saw total property values in southeastern Wisconsin fall for the fourth consecutive year while property tax rates and levies increased. The Forum found that strict new local government property tax levy limits imposed by the 2011-2013 Wisconsin State Budget continue to be a factor in limiting overall property tax levy growth, a boon for taxpayers but a possible source of distress for local governments.

Bridges to Postsecondary Success: An analysis of specialized curricula in the Milwaukee Public Schools
This study analyzes the effect of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Project Lead the Way, and career and technical education on college-going behavior at Milwaukee Public Schools. The report found some correlation between enrollment in specialized courses and enrollment in postsecondary education, but also found that the trends do not apply evenly between demographic groups.

100th Anniversary Gala Dinner
On May 9, 2013, the Public Policy Forum celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala dinner featuring a public policy discussion with guest speakers David Brooks and E.J. Dionne.

The Public Policy Forum's "Milwaukee Talkie" blog had one post in May, about how employment trends in the Milwaukee area during the 2000s compared to other large metropolitan areas, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

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