USC Price, NAPA partner to host state capital forum on critical policy challenges, solutions

September 15, 2017

The symposium brought together state leaders and scholars to address today’s major issues.

Photos by Brandon Manning | More NAPA Sacramento symposium photos on Flickr »

By Matthew Kredell

Themes of political will and equitable delivery of government services arose from the “Governing Across the Divide” fall symposium hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in partnership with the USC Price School of Public Policy.

Held on Aug. 29 in Sacramento, the event – which addressed the evolving role of states – was the first time NAPA has held a forum outside of the Washington, D.C., metro area.

NAPA President and CEO Theresa Gerton (Photo by Brandon Manning)

“We had a desire to get out in the country and meet our fellows where they are, and also talk about the role of state and local governments,” explained NAPA President and CEO Theresa Gerton.

The forum was the first in a four-part series of regional events to be held by NAPA this year.

“This first set of regional NAPA gatherings focuses on government across the divide, which is the big issue facing the country today,” said USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott. “For this particular meeting, we’re going to focus on states. In a time when people are most connected, states often miss opportunities to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. It’s not that we lack solutions to our problems, it’s that those solutions haven’t been tapped.”

Leading from the Golden State

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (Photo by Brandon Manning)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in the opening remarks, noted the successes California has had in creating more jobs than any other state, fueled by thriving industries in agriculture, advanced manufacturing and green energy.

He presented California as a state that is getting things done – this year reaching an agreement on improving transit and how to handle racial profiling in law enforcement – in contrast to the federal government.

“When our efforts to clean our environment are threatened,” Becerra commented, “we’ve gone too far and we’re not pulling back. When someone from Washington says we should separate families simply because of immigrant status, we say no — they’re working hard in this state, and we’ve got their back. When someone says getting rid of healthcare reduces costs in the state by half, we say no and tell [California Health and Human Services Secretary] Diana Dooley and people in the healthcare sector that we’ve got your backs.”

Tackling big issues, from the environment to healthcare

From right: CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez; past San Bernardino County CEO Greg Devereaux; Assemblymember Chad Mayes; Washington Evans School Dean Sandra Archibald and Price Professor Lois Takahashi (Photo by Brandon Manning)

In panel discussions, thought leaders, practitioners and academics considered the changing roles of states in the areas of environmental policy, healthcare, and the interactions of state and local government.

During a panel on environmental policy in the state level, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Matthew Rodriquez talked about a tremendous obligation to protect the environment. He also shared that none of the many diverse regions in the state suffer financially due to environmental policies, when compared nationally.

“The average California consumer pays less for energy than people in other parts of the country,” Rodriguez said. “The environment is being prized, secured and advanced. Other states and countries have wanted to know what we’re doing, and that shows me that we’re doing it right.”

Also participating in the environmental policy panel were: Dean Sandra Archibald of the University of Washington Evans School; Greg Devereaux, former CEO of San Bernardino County; Chad Mayes, California State Assemblymember (R-42nd district); and moderator Lois Takahashi, Director of the USC Price School in Sacramento.

The health policy panel featured (from left) Cal HHS Secretary Diana Dooley, Donald Moulds of Commonwealth Fund, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, Kenneth Kizer of UC Davis and Price Vice Dean Neeraj Sood. (Photo by Brandon Manning)

During the health policy discussion, Secretary Dooley noted that everyone thinks of the Affordable Care Act as a coverage expansion, but that it has also given tools to states to begin addressing the underlying challenges of the delivery system.

Price School Professor and Vice Dean of Research Neeraj Sood, who is also Director of Research at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics, explained how just providing insurance is not going to solve the problem of high healthcare spending. His research shows that the best way to reduce healthcare costs is to target incentives on the provider side.

“A lot of people think doctors or hospitals do the right thing, they care for me and nothing else,” Sood said. “Years of research shows that’s not true. Even doctors respond to financial incentives.”

Other health policy panelists included: Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California; Kenneth W. Kizer, Director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at UC Davis; and moderator Donald Moulds, Executive Vice President of Commonwealth Fund.

William Pound of the National Conference of State Legislatures (right) and State Senator Robert Hertzberg delivered remarks during the luncheon. (Photo by Brandon Manning)

Following the two morning panels, William Pound, Executive Director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, delivered remarks and mentioned his view that states drive domestic policy. In some cases, he explained, “once a number of states do things, particularly California is a leader in that, the federal government will ultimately pick them up, make national programs out of them.”

Pound covered topics including state innovation, obstacles to such innovation and attempts to foster intergovernmental cooperation.

State Senator Robert Hertzberg provided keynote remarks at the luncheon as well. He commented on his time in the State Assembly, his 12 years outside of government, and his current role now in the State Senate. “If you look at history and the living nature of the Constitution, the role between the states and federal government has changed. The public just wants you to do a good job for them. It is the challenge of public policy makers to contextualize and frame our issues with respect to the role and power of the states,” Hertzberg said.

‘Pivotal role states play’

From left: Thomas Reilly, Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, Price Professor Mark Pisano and Chris Hoene of the California Budget and Policy Center took part in a panel on the evolving relationship between states and local governments. (Photo by Brandon Manning)

Knott and USC Price Professor Mark Pisano participated in the third panel, moderated by Assistant Professor Bill Resh, focusing on the changing relationship between states and local governments. The panel also featured Chris Hoene, Executive Director of the California Budget and Policy Center, and
Thomas Reilly MPA ’97, DPA ’98, Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Pisano warned of a $288 billion decline in aggregate government revenue paid by individuals in 2016, a 13 percent reduction, arising from the change in the age structure of the population — that decline will continue to grow due to the aging baby boomer population and reduced number of working age population. To account for the 10,000 people a day who are retiring, he suggested that private funds are needed to invest in public assets, particularly at the local level where revenue is being generated that could pay back these assets.

Knott mentioned how the pressures driving fiscal stress on state and local governments include the expansion of spending on criminal justice, education, a dramatic growth in healthcare spending and pension benefits that aren’t being funded.

He urged governments to collaborate with the private sector to make use of the big data currently being collected.

“The remarkable intellectual capital, coupled with the strength of purpose exhibited today, underscored the pivotal role states play in developing governance solutions and policies to serve our citizens,” Knott said. “Historically, California has been a model of innovation, exemplified in its approach to help meet healthcare needs and address environmental realities. Today provided hope that despite a rapidly shifting political landscape, states will continue to find new ways to move our country forward.”