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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

2009 Public Policy Forums

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2009 Public Policy Forums

John W. Rodat

What Federal Health Care Reform Means for
State and Local Governments

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

As Congress considers various health reform proposals aimed at providing insurance coverage for more Americans, state and local governments will face major new challenges of cost and implementation, according to government and academic experts speaking at this public policy forum. The speakers were Timothy J. Hoff of the University at Albany School of Public Health, Wendy Saunders of New York State and John W. Rodat (pictured) of Albany County.

Institute Forum summary
Audio (Full)

Video of Timothy Hoff's presentation
Timothy Hoff's slide presentation

Video of Wendy Saunders' presentation
Video of John Rodat's presentation
Video of Question-and-Answer session

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch

States’ Long-Term Budget Gaps:
Are There Any Solutions?

Monday, November 30, 2009, New York City

New York State leaders and national experts on state finances explored the fiscal problems facing the states and proposed roadmaps for the future at the Institute’s first national conference on states’ long-term budget gaps. New York Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch called on both elected leaders and citizens to demand greater budgetary discipline, saying that national and state-level economic trends require a new approach. State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher highlighted ways in which SUNY will leverage public resources in light of new economic realities. David M. Walker, president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, outlined the primary drivers of states’ long-term budget gaps and urged solutions including “fiscally responsible health care reform.”

Details on these and other speakers appear below.

Summary transcript of the day's discussion.

David M. Walker


  • Donald J. Boyd, Rockefeller Institute:
    “Challenges in State-Local Revenues”
    Slide presentationVideo
  • Nick Johnson, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities:
    “Revenue Solutions”
    E.J. McMahon, Empire Center/Manhattan Institute:
    “Expenditure Solutions”
    Slide presentation
    John Cape, Public Financial Management Inc.:
    Video of Johnson, McMahon and Cape
  • Richard P. Nathan, former director, Rockefeller Institute: “Implications for Fiscal Federalism: Weakening of the States”
Brian Carter
John C. Egan

Design Excellence + New Civic Architecture
in New York

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New York State should implement an architectural design excellence program modeled after the federal government's, Brian Carter (top left), dean of the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning, urged at this forum. Through its program, the U.S. General Services Administration awards contracts for federal buildings to architects with "integrative designs" that consider factors such as operating costs, environmental concerns and community development, Carter said. New York State Office of General Services Commissioner John C. Egan (bottom left) said such a statewide program would be possible, but would require legislation. Egan said the state currently is concerned with sustainability and energy efficiency in new building projects. He also spoke about lessons from major projects including the Empire State Plaza (completed in 1978) and Albany International Airport terminal (completed in 1998).

Institute Forum summary
Audio (Full)

Video of Brian Carter's presentation
Brian Carter's slide presentation

Video of John Egan's presentation
Video of Question-and-Answer session

Isaac Ehrlich

New York State Network for Economic Research Conference: A Focus on Human Capital

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sustaining and advancing New York’s “human capital” is critical to the state’s efforts to recover from the current recession and compete in the global economy, according to experts at this event. Keynote speaker Isaac Ehrlich (pictured), chair of the Department of Economics at the University at Buffalo and editor of the University of Chicago Press’ Journal of Human Capital, said human innovation and ingenuity are responsible for the technological advances that have fueled the U.S. economy over the last century. He urged further investment in the state's human capital, not only to help speed economic recovery but also to help the nation maintain its position as an economic leader. Other speakers discussed such topics as education and employment trends, and their relationship to economic activity.

Institute Forum summary

Keynote Speaker:
Isaac Ehrlich, University at Buffalo and Journal of Human Capital
“A Perspective on Human Capital”

Panel I:
Donald J. Boyd, Rockefeller Institute
"Public and Private Employment in New York During the Recession"
Slide presentationVideo

James Parrott, Fiscal Policy Institute
“The State of Working New York”
Slide presentationVideo

Irene Lurie, Rockefeller Institute

Panel I Question-and-Answer session
Isaac Ehrlich
Panel II:
Jaison R. Abel (pictured, left), Federal Reserve Bank of New York
“Human Capital and Economic Activity in U.S. Metro Areas”
Paper Slide presentationVideo

John Porter (pictured, right), State University of New York
“Higher Education Enrollment Trends During Recessions”
Paper Slide presentationVideo

Laura Anglin, Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities
Prepared remarksVideo

Panel II Question-and-Answer session

Thomas Conoscenti, New York University
“Effective Property Tax Rates in Downstate New York”
Slide presentationVideo

Eamon Moynihan, Cost of Living Project
“The Cost of Living in New York”
Slide presentationVideo

Richard P. Nathan in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

The Role of the Federal Government in Megadisasters

Thursday, August 27, 2009

At City Hall in Bay St. Louis, Miss., Institute Co-Director Richard P. Nathan (pictured) and Boston College Political Science Professor Marc Landy presented to the regional news media and other attendees the final product of research in the four-year “GulfGov” study on government responses to the 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Their paper calls for changes in the federal Stafford Act, the law that authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to allow the president immediately to appoint a special officer-in-charge once a megadisaster strikes. Former Mississippi Governor William F. Winter led the event.

Nathan and Landy's statement
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's statement
Video of news coverage from WLOX-TV
Other “GulfGov” reports

Helping in Crisis: Government Assistance in Recession and Beyond

July 12-15, 2009

The Institute joined the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to co-host the 49th National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics conference, July 12-15, in Albany, N.Y. The conference brought together representatives from federal, state, and local government, from universities, and from the private and nonprofit sectors, representing the full spectrum of human services programs, to discuss the latest on efforts to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. Much of the discussion involved questions about how the recession and federal stimulus package will impact state and federal roles in providing an adequate safety net for poor Americans.

Conference at a glance (a chronological list of conference sessions, with links to papers, slide presentations, audio and video files as available).


Monday, July 13

Video: Welcome from Richard P. Nathan
Video: Roundtable – "The Economy and Its Consequences"
Summary: "The ARRA: Changes, Monitoring, and Assessments"

Tuesday, July 14
Summary: "A New Federal-State Partnership for Social Programs?"

Wednesday, July 15
Summary: "State Efforts to Modernize Delivery and Access to SNAP Benefits"

This Is Not Your Mom and Pop's Charter School

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

As the number of students attending charter schools across the U.S. continues to grow, leaders of these independent schools are drawing important lessons that will be key to addressing lingering challenges, according to experts who spoke at a Rockefeller Institute of Government Public Policy Forum on June 10. The forum, the fourth in a series held at the Institute, featured Chester E. Finn Jr. (pictured) of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and Douglas Lemov, managing director of Uncommon Schools – a New York-based non-profit charter management organization (CMO) that launched and manages 16 charters schools throughout New York.

Institute Forum summary
Audio (Full)

Video of Chester Finn's presentation

Video of Douglas Lemov's presentation
Douglas Lemov's slide presentation

Video of Question-and-Answer session

James G. Sheehan

The Next Phase in Medicaid Program Integrity

Monday, June 8, 2009

New York State Medicaid Inspector General James G. Sheehan discussed the opportunities for improving the government-sponsored health program through mining data now gathered at state and federal levels. Examining such data provides more chances to detect financial fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system — thereby cutting costs — as well as opportunities to improve medical results for patients, he said. New York’s integrated system of Medicaid data is the best in the nation, and could act as a model for those in the federal government and other states, Sheehan suggested.

Institute Forum summary
Audio (Full)
James Sheehan's slide presentation

Michael Malbin and Blair Horner

Small Donors, Large Donors, and the Internet: Campaign Finance Reform after Obama

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Barack Obama's election win last year changed the conversation about campaign finance reform, said the speakers at this Public Policy Forum — Michael J. Malbin (pictured, left), executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, D.C., and Blair Horner (pictured, right), legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. Following then-Senator Obama's Internet-based solicitation of a large number of contributors, the emphasis now is at least as much on increasing the number of small donors as it is on limiting the amount of spending in politics. The speakers analyzed campaign finance both at the national level and in the states, including New York.

Institute Forum summary
Audio (Full)

Video of Michael Malbin's presentation
Michael Malbin's presentation (text and tables)

Video of Blair Horner's presentation
Blair Horner's slide presentation

Video of Question-and-Answer session

Katherine Swartz

Mitigating the Effects of High-Risk, High-Cost Populations in the Private Health Insurance Market

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Katherine Swartz (pictured), professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard School of Public Health, provided an overview of the "Massachusetts experience" with ensuring universal health coverage, with a focus on the need to manage care and contain costs for people with high medical expenses. In response, New York officials representing the departments of Health and Insurance — Troy Oechsner, Jay Laudato and Eileen Hayes — shared perspectives on New York's challenges in expanding care to more high-risk patients.

Institute Forum summary of the event
Audio (Full)
Video of Professor Swartz's presentation
Video of New York officials' responses
Professor Swartz's PowerPoint presentation

Sean Philpott, Judy Doesschate, Amy Campbell

The Outlook for Stem Cell Research
in New York and the Nation

Monday, May 11, 2009

This Public Policy Forum followed on the heels of new federal guidelines detailing the Obama administration's plans for government funding of stem cell research, coming off a period of what Institute Senior Fellow James W. Fossett called "federal gridlock" during the Bush administration. The wide-ranging discussion covered scientific, ethical, political and legal topics of concern for stem cell research across the nation, and included a report on New York's current status with regard to government-funded stem cell study.

Listen to the Audio (Full)
Richard P. Mills

Education in New York: Today and Tomorrow

Monday, May 4, 2009

The next round of education reform — including establishment of new national standards — will be driven by the states, with New York among those leading the way, State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills told educators, legislators and researchers at this Institute event. He predicted that the $4.4 billion in federal stimulus money intended to reward states that have taken the lead in pursuing federal reform priorities will be won by consortia rather than individual states. Mills' talk also covered a range of other current education topics, including standards, outcomes, financing, technology and more.

Listen to the Audio (Full)
Watch the Video
Read News Coverage of the Event

James W. Connolly
James K. Reed

What the Berger Commission Has Meant for
Acute Care in New York's Capital Region

Friday, May 1, 2009

The New York State Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — more commonly known as the Berger Commission — recommended a series of hospital and nursing home restructurings three years ago to reduce excess capacity, and ultimately costs, in the medical industry. James W. Connolly (above left), president and chief executive of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady — a community he dubbed the commission's "Ground Zero" — discussed his oversight of a successful three-hospital consolidation there. James K. Reed (below left), president and CEO of Northeast Health in Troy, where the commission made no such restructuring recommendations, talked about the voluntary consolidations that his organization is undergoing with two other area health systems. Both men said the industry needs to move forward itself with further restructuring efforts.

Listen to the Audio (Full)
Watch the Video
View Mr. Connolly's Presentation
Read News Coverage of the Event

Event Photo

"Vera and the Ambassador: Escape and Return" –
A Book Forum

Friday, April 3, 2009

Co-authors Vera Blinken and Donald Blinken, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and Chair of the SUNY Board of Trustees, discussed their recently published memoir, describing their experiences with the U.S. diplomatic effort in Hungary during the Clinton administration. The couple told two interweaving stories – Vera of her return to the country she had escaped as a child to lead Hungarian women in the newfound concepts of networking and activism, and Donald of the realities of advancing American policy in a post-Communist nation.

Watch the Video
Purchase the book from SUNY Press

Event Photo

Charter Schools in New York and the Nation

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The current status and future prospects for the nation’s charter schools were the topics of this public policy forum. Presenting the latest facts and findings was Jonas S. Chartock, executive director of the State University of New York’s Charter Schools Institute. SUNY is the state’s largest charter school authorizer, with 63 charter schools approved for operation to date.

Listen to the Audio (Full)
Watch the Video
Read Mr. Chartock's Presentation