Wildavsky: Britain’s Open University a Distance Learning Pioneer
The Rockefeller Institute’s Ben Wildavsky discussed Britain’s Open University and the impact it has had on distance learning worldwide in an essay featured in the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center Chalkboard. At a time when American universities are seeking to promote access and improve effectiveness, Wildavsky underscores the potential of models like the Open University to serve nontraditional student populations.
Historic Decline in Oil and Coal Prices Hammers State Tax Revenue
Oil has dropped from an average of $99 per barrel in 2014 to below $30 this January, the lowest level in the last 12 years. Coal prices have also fallen significantly. While lower prices are good for consumers, they are particularly bad for the economies and finances of oil- and mineral-dependent states: Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Total tax revenues for these states have declined by 3.2 percent, while the remaining 42 states have reported 6.5 percent growth in total tax revenues. These steep commodity price declines are leading to cuts in production and employment, weakening mineral-state economies and likely leading to slower growth in state revenue from other tax sources.
Rockefeller Institute Launches Constitutional Convention Educational Website
The Rockefeller Institute has launched a Constitutional Convention web portal on its site. It can be found at http://www.rockinst.org/nys_concon2017/ . According to Institute officials, the new web portal offers citizens objective information on the background and history behind the constitutional convention; the timeline of the referendum and convention, if called by the voters; potential issues that might come up in a convention; available publications that describe past conventions; videos of related events; and links to electronic and print coverage on the subject. The material on the site represents the collective nonpartisan educational efforts of the state’s foremost authorities on the New York State Constitution and the convention process.
Stock Market Hits Pound Public Pension Performance
Investment shortfalls in the July-September quarter of 2015 caused unfunded state and local government pension liabilities to increase by $268 billion, reaching $1.7 trillion, according to Federal Reserve Board data examined in a By the Numbers Brief of the Rockefeller Institute. The increase was a full 1.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), bringing unfunded liabilities to 9.5 percent of GDP — undoing about one and a half years of improvement. In the last 25 years, unfunded liabilities have increased by 1.4 percent or more of GDP in 13 quarters, while these liabilities have fallen by 1.4 percent or more in just two quarters. These issues are particularly important given the significant stock market declines since the start of the year, suggesting that further substantial increases in unfunded liabilities are likely.
Powerball No Panacea for State Coffers
Across the country, all eyes are on the record Powerball jackpot and while one or more lucky winners may be sharing a fortune, what will ticket sales do for state revenues? According to Rockefeller Institute researchers Lucy Dadayan and Don Boyd, every dollar brought in by states helps, but net revenues from lottery sales are not big in the scheme of state budgets. In their most recent By the Numbers Brief, Dadayan and Boyd indicate that gross lottery sales in fiscal year 2014 were approximately $70.2 billion, and yet net revenues for state budgets after payment of prizes, administrative costs, and other expenses made up a more modest $18.1 billion return to states, or about 2 percent of tax revenue. Despite the fact that lottery revenues are frequently directed to dedicated purposes (e.g., education), higher lottery revenue does not necessarily translate into increased state spending for those purposes.
ACA Implementation Research Network
Twenty-Six Baseline Reports In, with More to Come
The Rockefeller Institute of SUNY, the Brookings Institution, and the Fels Institute of the University of Pennsylvania are coordinating a network of indigenous field researchers in 40 states to analyze the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Network aims to provide accessible, user-friendly, clear, and objective reports that can assist the public, governments, service providers, and experts in the process of reforming American health care. To date, 26 baseline state reports have been published, along with two regional overview reports on state experiences in the West and the South. More reports will be uploaded soon. To access the reports, go to the link below and click on the map for the states that have issued reports. Other information on this long-term project, including C-SPAN coverage of our recent release of reports on the southern states, is also available.
States Forecast Slower Tax Growth Through 2017 and Beyond
A new brief released by the Rockefeller Institute indicates that a majority of states are forecasting slower personal income tax and sales tax revenue growth in 2016 and 2017. The sluggishness in tax revenues is partly due to expected slower growth in the economy and long-term demographic changes as well as due to volatility in stock market and prolonged declines in oil and gas prices. This will result in continued fiscal challenges and economic uncertainties for the states, the brief concludes. The Rockefeller Institute’s By the Numbers briefs were developed to spotlight emerging trends in state economies and finances.
Georgians Seek ACA Coverage Despite Political Opposition, Report Finds
Georgians signed up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage in significantly increasing numbers in the second enrollment period despite strong opposition from the state's Republican governor and Republican-controlled state legislature, this according to a report recently released by Michael Rich of Emory University, the lead researcher of a report on Georgia’s implementation of the ACA. The study further indicated that more than 540,000 Georgia consumers selected a health plan through the federal health insurance marketplace (HealthCare.gov) during the second enrollment period, a 71 percent increase over the first enrollment period. This is the 28th state and/or regional report to be issued by the 40-state ACA Implementation Research Network. The Georgia report was released in an event for media and policy makers at the Community Foundation of Atlanta Headquarters on December 18th.
Report News Release
Adirondack Park Institute Recognizes Rockefeller Institute
The Rockefeller Institute of Government and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, a wild lands advocacy and educational not-for-profit, have received the 2015 Frank Hutchins Adirondack Environmental Education Leadership Award from the Adirondack Park Institute. This award was created by the Adirondack Park Institute to honor and recognize exceptional leadership in fostering educational programs and experiences as a foundation for stewardship of the Adirondack Park’s natural resources and sustainable communities.
Kaiser Family Foundation/Rockefeller Institute Report Highlights Trends in Medicaid Expansion
In a just released report, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Rockefeller Institute of Government of SUNY compared the demographic, fiscal, and economic characteristics of states that have expanded Medicaid and those that have not. To date, 30 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Medicaid expansion, while the remaining 20 states have rejected expansion or are still debating the issue.
Report News Release
Blinken Report: States Struggling With Slow Fiscal Recovery
Despite the rising U.S. stock market and the fifth year of continuous growth in employment, state and local governments still face enormous fiscal challenges, including slow growth in tax revenues, cuts in most areas of spending, and difficulties in performing essential functions. Conditions will likely be inadequate to restore state government spending cuts, fund infrastructure expansion, pay for growth in Medicaid, and cover insufficiently funded public pensions, making the choices available to states even harder. This is the second of an ongoing series of reports funded by former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Donald Blinken and his wife, Vera, longtime supporters of the Rockefeller Institute.
Report News Release
The End of College? Or Science Fiction?
C-SPAN’s BOOK TV featured the Rockefeller Institute’s March 18th forum on Kevin Carey’s much-debated new book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere. After Carey summarized his manifesto for a fundamental transformation of our higher education system, the Institute’s Ben Wildavsky moderated a spirited discussion among four panelists, including SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
The Pew Charitable Trusts and Rockefeller Institute Report on Managing Volatile Tax Collections in State Revenue Forecasts
The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Rockefeller Institute have released a report designed to help policymakers better understand how volatile state taxes affect the accuracy of revenue projections. It examines data from 1987 through 2013 and reveals that predicting how much money state governments will raise has become more difficult than ever. The increase in revenue forecast errors is due largely to the growing volatility of tax collections across the states. From 2000 to 2013, the size of fluctuations in tax revenue rose in 42 states. And although no state can entirely eliminate forecasting errors, this study identifies three ways to help them manage volatility.
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About the Open Health Data, Open Opportunities Workshop
How can releasing millions of data points improve the health of New Yorkers? This interactive workshop brought together researchers and practitioners to explore how open health data can be a viable new resource for health research and developing innovative health interventions.