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GOVERNING Summit on the Cost of Government - 2012

Sep. 18, 2012 | and September 19, 2012 | Newseum | Washington, D.C.


A public official’s first responsibility is fiscal stewardship. The Cost of Government Summit addresses the leadership, management and governance issues surrounding the major expenses to government.

DAY ONE: September 18, 2012

8:30 am - Networking Breakfast and Registration

9:00 am - Welcome

Erin Waters, Publisher, GOVERNING

9:10 am -  Introductions

Paul Taylor, Ph.D., Editor at Large, GOVERNING

9:45 am - The State Budget Task Force Report: Insights and Updates

Donald J. Boyd, executive director of the Task Force on the State Budget Crisis, The Rockefeller Institute of Government (invited)

10:05 am -  Group Discussion

Moderator: Zach Patton, Senior Editor, GOVERNING

10:30 am - Break

10:45 am - Managing Costs vs. Managing Budgets
Responsible fiscal stewardship is about cost management – how to get the biggest bang for the buck – but the tool we use, the budget, is often prepared, discussed, debated and adopted with little consideration of actual costs.  Instead, the budget discussion is usually all about how much we intend to spend in the coming year.  Spending is often reduced in the current year – say for infrastructure maintenance – ways that will dramatically increase costs in future years.  And for many governments, after decades of short term spending management rather than long term cost management, the future is now.

Total cost analysis, life cycle costs of assets, finding efficiencies in programs, and revealing truth in spending will be key the issues of this discussion.

Moderator: Mark Funkhouser, Ph.D., Director, The Governing Institute, former mayor, Kansas City, Missouri

David Adkins, Executive Director, Council of State Governments
Robert C. Bobb, President and CEO, Robert Bobb Group LLC
Mike Eglinski, City Auditor, Lawrence, Kansas

11:45 am - Promises to Keep: Pensions, OPEB*, and the New Normal
The tide has turned.  For many years and in dozens of public employee pension systems across the United States, public officials smilingly promised benefits to their employees without putting aside the money to pay for those benefits.  After the Great Recession ripped away a huge chunk of the assets of those pension plans the size of the unfunded obligations of many pension funds became crystal clear, and for some, it was clear that they were simply unsustainable.  

Legislative updates, behind the scenes conversations and a deep dive discussion about the pension pile up and labor management issues facing the public sector.
*OPEB: Other Post Employment Benefits

Moderator: Jonathan Walters, Executive Editor, GOVERNING

John Nixon, Director, Michigan State Budget Office, and Department of Technology, Management and Budget
Diane Oakley, Director, National Institute on Retirement Security

12:45 pm - Lunch

1:45 pm - The Great Debate - Municipal Bankruptcy: The way out for some? Bad for All?
In traditional Oxford style debate, the GOVERNING Institute will put the motion on the floor and two teams comprised of the nation’s best finance thinkers will face off on one of the today’s hottest issues: municipal bankruptcy.

Moderator: Chris Swope, Editorial Coordinator, NPR’s StateImpact

3:15 pm - Break

3:30 pm - Promises to Keep: Health Benefits
In 2008 state and local governments were spending about $132 billion annually on employee health benefits, or more than 5 percent of overall expenditures.  Employee health benefits are a significant government expenditure that has grown over the years by double-digit percentages. As the effects of the recession continue to impact government revenues, especially for local government, public officials are looking ever more aggressively for areas where spending can be reduced without directly cutting public services.  Employee health benefits is an area attracting attention as a prime target for expenditure reduction.  Among the options governments are considering are altering the mix of employee contributions and deductibles, more efficient benefits administration and the development or expansion of employee wellness programs.  This discussion will explore the pros and cons of these and other approaches to managing employee health care costs and allow participants to share their challenges and their successes in grappling with this important aspect of the cost of government.

Moderator: John Buntin, Staff Writer, GOVERNING

Susan Rodriguez, Deputy Personnel Administrator, State of Rhode Island

4:30 pm - Group Roundtable Discussion

5:00 pm - Adjourn

DAY TWO: September 19, 2012

8:30 am - Networking and Breakfast

9:00 am - Welcome

Paul Taylor, Ph.D., Editor at Large, GOVERNING

9:10 am - Building the Future
Steel rusts and concrete deteriorates.  The laws of physics are inexorable and do not respond to our wishes or our votes.  On August 1, 2007 the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River at Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145.  The dollar costs of needed infrastructure investment are staggering – the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the cost of deferred maintenance alone at $2 trillion, with an estimated $7 trillion needed to build out the infrastructure to meet demands. There is a human cost as well: the negative impact of inadequate investment in infrastructure on the environment, the economy and our quality of life is huge and will be felt for generations to come. 

How can major investments be made in the hard and soft infrastructure we need in our states and communities? What are the conversations that need to be had and where are the finance mechanisms that can make planning a reality?

Moderator:  Ryan Holeywell, Staff Writer, GOVERNING

Natwar Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer, District of Columbia

10:00 am - Break

10:20 am - Taxes, Revenue, Fees
Municipal revenues have declined for five straight years and, considering that the two largest sources of municipal revenue are state aid and property taxes, absent a miracle, prospects for increased revenues do not look good.  States, on the other hand, are seeing a mild up-tick in revenues but are still way below their pre-recession revenue peaks.  Hundreds of thousands of state and local government employees have been let go and taxpayers have been nickeled and dimed with fees.  Now what?

Are these individual fees here to stay? Are increased revenues, including new or increased taxes, possible in today’s climate?

Moderator: Mark Funkhouser, Ph.D., Director, The Governing Institute, former mayor, Kansas City, Missouri

Scott Martin, Commissioner, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Katy Simon, County Manager, Washoe County, Nevada

11:00 am - Participatory Democracy

Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.  - Thomas Jefferson, 1789

Was Thomas Jefferson an idealist, or is participatory democracy possible? Do citizens care enough to engage with their government? Does social media promote citizen engagement? This closing conversation will address perhaps the most important challenge facing leaders today – revitalizing participatory democracy.

Moderator: Paul Taylor, Ph.D., Editor at Large, GOVERNING

Steve Brigham, President, AmericaSpeaks
Ross King, Executive Director, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia
Gene Koo, Executive Director, iCivics

12:00 pm - Adjourn





  • John Buntin, Staff Writer, GOVERNING

  • Mark Funkhouser, Ph.D., Director, The Governing Institute, former mayor, Kansas City, Missouri

  • Zach Patton, Senior Editor, GOVERNING

  • Paul Taylor, Ph.D., Editor at Large, GOVERNING

  • Jonathan Walters, Executive Editor, GOVERNING

  • Erin Waters, Publisher, GOVERNING


Mastercard VISA


Sponsorship opportunities are available.

For more information, contact:
Erin Waters, Publisher


For information on attending and general assistance contact:

Liz Wallendorf, National Program Director
Phone: 520-869-1276

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