Ravitch Fiscal Reporting

Ravitch Fiscal Reporting The Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the CUNY J School provides advanced training in state and local fiscal issues through week-long and weekend program

The Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the CUNY J School provides advanced training in state and local fiscal issues through week-long and weekend programs emphasizing in-depth knowledge of key controversies, overcoming reporting challenges and improving storytelling. It will help reporters stay on top of breaking issues through its email newsletter and website, and create a network of reporters covering the beat.

Operating as usual



Qualified applicants are being accepted on a first-come, first-in basis for the five-day deep dive into fiscal policy at Jan. 10-Jan. 14 session of the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting session. Almost half the slots are filled. Details: ravitch.journalism.cuny.edu and ravitch.journalism.cuny.edu/application



The pandemic has made it clear how coverage of local economies needs to be improved. The Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the Newmark J School will launch a new three-day seminar from June 16 to June 18 on how to cover local economies for both those who have attended previous sessions and those who are new to the program.
The application is here:
Specify you are applying to the economic seminar.
As always, the Ravitch program will pay all expenses. It will be in-person. Attendees should plan to arrive on Tuesday June 15 and can depart after 5 pm on Friday June 18. Under current social distancing rules, the limit is 20, although the numbers may be expanded if social distancing rules are relaxed.
Deadline for applications is Sunday April 25 but qualified applicants are accepted on a first come, first in basis.

Wednesday June 16
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
The first Friday of every month, the national economic reporters write about the latest numbers on jobs and unemployment as a way to take the pulse of a local economy. The same numbers are available for states and cities (two weeks later) and local reporters can do the same to keep track of the local economy. Greg David
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Covering small business. Small businesses make up the overwhelming number of businesses in most communities. But coverage is unsophisticated (to be charitable). This session delves into how to cover small businesses skeptically, how to do both trend and individual company stories and where to get the numbers. Cara Eisenpress.
4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Debrief and story ideas session. Greg David.
Thursday June 17 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Covering unions and worker issues. It’s an old story that unions are losing clout in American. But the Biden administration is out to change that and so are both traditional unions and a host of new worker organizations. This session will tackle both the big picture and all the sources that are available. Michael Grabell of ProPublica.
1 pm to 4 pm Covering Real Estate
Real estate is the bread and butter of local business publications. This session will explain the many data points available to improve residential coverage and how to cover commercial real estate and how to integrate it into broader economic coverage.
4 pm to 5 pm: Debrief and story discussion for Friday. Greg
Friday June 18
Each attendee will produce a story for their outlet, which Greg will edit, followed by a debrief about 3 pm



The Ravitch Fiscal Reporting Program at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism is offering reporting grants to spur coverage of the many crises affecting Puerto Rico given the lack of prominence the story has been given in the mainland press.

The program has up to $30,000 in grants. Partnerships involving at least two outlets are required and multi-platform teams (like a public radio outlet and an online site) will be given preference. Puerto Rico based media need to be linked to domestic outlets to insure publication in the mainland.

The money could be given entirely to one consortium or may divided up into $10,000 grants to three groups. It can be used to pay reporter and freelance salaries, travel, document research, legal fees and help for preparing interactive and visual elements.

Express your interest by emailing program director Greg David at [email protected] no later than March 15. Proposals will be required by March 29 at the latest with awards to follow shortly.

Also don’t hesitate to contact Greg David with any questions.

Ravitch Fiscal Reporting

Ravitch Fiscal Reporting


Now this is what the Ravitch Fiscal Reporting program is all about. Paul Krugman's Tuesday newsletter

Two weeks ago Michael Dunleavy, the Republican governor of Alaska, decided that it would be better to destroy his state’s future than to raise taxes, even a little. The thing is, his actions, while unusually drastic, were basically in line with what other Republican governors have been doing for years. And they add a twist to what we’ve gradually come to realize is a key story about 21st-century America: the growing divide between thriving and lagging regions.

The background: Thanks to the royalties from North Slope oil production, Alaska has long been in a fiscal position other states could only envy. It has been able not only to afford high public spending, but to do so while levying low taxes and giving every permanent resident an annual dividend. But oil royalties have been declining, creating a fiscal crisis. The state needs to make a choice — raise taxes, cut the oil revenue dividend, or cut spending.

Dunleavy, who campaigned on a (deeply irresponsible) promise to increase the oil revenue dividend, chose spending cuts — but not just any spending cuts. Using his line item veto, he abruptly cut funding for the state university system by 41 percent. Imposing cuts on that scale, with no warning — legislators had agreed to some funding reduction, but Dunleavy’s cut is 20 times what they passed — will have an apocalyptic impact. It’s barely hyperbole to say that rather than accepting the need for a tax increase, Dunleavy chose to destroy public higher education.

It’s an amazing story, but as I suggested, it fits a pattern. When low-tax ideology collides with fiscal reality, education — which accounts for about half of state and local government employment — often bears much of the cost. The infamous Kansas “experiment” in tax-cutting (hey, that’s what Governor Sam Brownback called it) finally came to an end when even Republican legislators were horrified by the damage spending cuts were doing to education.

So what happens when states slash education funding in order to keep taxes low? Obviously it’s bad for students, especially those trying to achieve the American Dream of upward social mobility: Good, affordable education used to be one of our national glories, but in much of America it’s disappearing (but not at the City University of New York!). But it’s also bad for those states’ economic prospects.

Of course, that’s not how the low-tax people see it. In their vision of the world, low taxes are an invitation to business, which is eager to flee high-tax states and relocate to where the rates are lower. But that’s not the dynamic we actually see at work in America right now. What we see instead is a flow of highly educated workers and industries that employ such workers toward places that already offer a well-educated work force, even if they have relatively high taxes.

Even as Brownback was slashing taxes in Kansas, Jerry Brown was raising taxes in California, in part to avoid the savage education cuts taking place in much of the country. Conservatives declared that California was committing “economic suicide,” but the state has in fact boomed on the strength of its knowledge industries.

Now, growing regional disparities reflect powerful economic forces, and lagging regions will have a hard time even with the best of policies. But destroying a key part of your state’s education system to keep taxes low is a good way to guarantee that your state will fall ever further behind.

Reporters who have attended the Ravitch session know how to cover pension fund results. This AP reporter did not. With m...
State pension fund report doesn't tell the real story

Reporters who have attended the Ravitch session know how to cover pension fund results. This AP reporter did not. With most governments on a July 1 fiscal year, the final numbers will be very interesting. Here's my take on the latest from NYS @ https://www.crainsnewyork.com/greg-david-new-york/state-pension-fund-report-doesnt-tell-real-story

Breadcrumb Home Greg David on New York May 17, 2019 01:35 PM State pension fund report doesn't tell the real story State investment gains fell short Greg David Columnist Tweet Share Share Email More Print Bloomberg HIGHLIGHTS • The state earned 5.23% • The target is 7% • Shortfalls can be a...

Here's a trend that you should be watching. States and cities are scaling back or eliminating retiree health coverage. E...
As Retiree Health-Care Bills Mount, Some States Have a Solution: Stop Paying

Here's a trend that you should be watching. States and cities are scaling back or eliminating retiree health coverage. Excellent trend story by WSJ reporter and Ravitch alum Heather Gillers @ https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-retiree-health-care-bills-mount-some-states-have-a-solution-stop-paying-11556703001

Local governments across the U.S. are testing how far they can reduce health benefits for their retirees as a way of coping with mounting liabilities and balancing budgets.

Ravitch alum Heather Gillers tackles the key problem with pensions -- the strongest stock market in history hasn't helpe...
The Long Bull Market Has Failed to Fix Public Pensions

Ravitch alum Heather Gillers tackles the key problem with pensions -- the strongest stock market in history hasn't helped"


Robust gains from the longest bull market in U.S. history have failed to solve the deep-seated problems of the nation’s public pensions. But there is a simple reason why pensions are in such rough shape.

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR FISCAL REPORTING SESSIONS BEGINNING JULY 8The next full week Ravitch Program workshop will be the ...


The next full week Ravitch Program workshop will be the week of July 8 covering budgets, bonds, pensions, tax incentives, opportunity zones and additional topics to be decided by the attendees. The program, held at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York in New York’s Times square, provides in-depth sessions on both concepts, data and reporting strategies.

The program pays all expenses including transportation, hotel and food.

The schedule from the July session (http://ravitch.journalism.cuny.edu/schedule/) will be close to the schedule for January posted on the Ravitch web site.

The deadline for applications is April 30 but applications will be considered on a first-come basis.

The application is at http://ravitch.journalism.cuny.edu/application.

For more information contact Ravitch Program director Greg David at [email protected].

  SCHEDULE FOR JAN 7 - JAN. 11 MONDAY Jan. 7 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.: Welcome and Introductions 10 a.m. –3:00 p.m.: Budgets A to Z — with Greg

Pension spiking is an issue for most public pension plans. Here's a savvy way to attack the issue for readers @ https://...
Here’s how overtime boosts Philly workers’ retirement checks — and could cost the city $17 million in a single year

Pension spiking is an issue for most public pension plans. Here's a savvy way to attack the issue for readers @ https://www.philly.com/news/pensions-municipal-workers-spiking-overtime-unions-labor-contracts-philadelphia-20190307.html

An Inquirer review of city data found 18 municipal employees who left their jobs in 2017 and achieved something that seems illogical: By retiring, they guaranteed themselves a bigger paycheck each month than the base salary they earned going to work day after day.


The California Supreme Court punts on the California rule. Here's Reuters story. I hope to have comment from Peter Kiernen soon.

California pension ruling skips test of constitutional protections

3 Min Read

(Reuters) - The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the elimination of a program allowing public workers to boost their pensions was constitutional, but it sidestepped the bigger issue of constitutional protections for increasingly expensive public worker pension benefits that are eating away at the state’s finances.

The case brought by a California firefighters union against the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) appeared to be a candidate to test the legal right of public sector workers to accrue the same level of pension benefits throughout their career. This so-called California rule has limited the ability of the state to cut retirement benefits as a way to ease pension costs.

Josh McGee, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said the ruling leaves California with rising costs that are increasingly competing for money needed for state services.

“By sidestepping a ruling on the California Rule, the supreme court didn’t solve anything. They left a big unknown out there to be determined at a later date,” he said.


The high court affirmed previous trial and appeals court rulings that found the ability of public workers to purchase up to five years of additional service credit to boost their pensions was not protected by the state constitution’s contract clause.


The elimination of that program was part of a California pension reform law that took effect in 2013. Given its ruling, the supreme court said it would not take up the issue of whether the program’s termination was an unconstitutional impairment of workers’ rights.

“Because we conclude that the opportunity to purchase ARS (additional retirement service) credit was not a term and condition of public employment protected from impairment by the contract clause, its elimination does not implicate the constitution,” the opinion stated. “For that reason, we have no occasion in this decision to address, let alone to alter, the continued application of the California Rule.”

McGee said that while other pension cases are working their way through the California courts, it was “relatively unlikely” that justices will give the state flexibility to reduce its pension costs.

Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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NYS's budget is falling apart. A warning sign for other states? https://bit.ly/2UG7jxx
What does Cuomo do now?

NYS's budget is falling apart. A warning sign for other states? https://bit.ly/2UG7jxx

Breadcrumb Home Greg David on New York February 05, 2019 12:13 PM What does Cuomo do now? Budget gap means both immediate and long-term problems Greg David Columnist Tweet Share Share Email More Print Governor needs to find $2 billion in two months He needs to convince people there's a problem And w...


David Crane takes on the NYT's reporting of the LA Teachers Strike

Dear GFC Supporters and Legislators,

Today's New York Times includes an article about funding for California's schools that gets some facts wrong. While it is correct that the enactment of Proposition 13 in 1978 limited property tax funding for schools, the author neglected to explain (or even mention) the replacement of that funding by Proposition 98. Fortunately, readers can get information from original sources easily accessible via the Internet.

As explained on page 32 of the Governor's Budget, "the annual funding level for K-12 schools and community colleges is determined by the Proposition 98 formula, a constitutional initiative approved by California voters in 1988 that guarantees K-12 schools and community colleges a minimum level of funding from state [revenues] and local property taxes." That page also shows the growth in Proposition 98 funding:
Page 33 shows spending per California student:
Another excellent original source is the Legislative Analyst's Office, which in its 2018 analysis of K-12 informs readers that "the state Is [the] primary source of funding for schools" and that "California per-pupil spending ranks in the middle among the states."

LAUSD's revenue growth can be seen via original sources at LAUSD's Office of Chief Financial Officer here and as illustrated for the last five years below:
That same site also allows readers to derive information about how LAUSD's spending priorities have changed. Eg, over that five-year period spending on active LAUSD teacher salaries dropped from 35 percent of revenues to 28 percent while spending on retirement costs grew from 8 percent of revenues to 12 percent of revenues.

The Internet has made access to original sources of information easier than ever. We encourage legislators and GFC supporters to make full use of those sources.

David Crane


219 W 40th
New York, NY


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Has anybody encountered the idea that pension plans don't need to be 100% funded? Retirees in New Mexico are pushing back on proposals to address the underfunded pension system by citing this paper posted on Brookings: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/07/15/how-bad-is-the-state-and-local-pension-crisis-really/ Any suggested sources I should reach out to on how urgently pension funds should try to get to 100%? NM's funded ratio is typically calculated to be in the low 70s.
Happy Presidents Day Speaking of dead presidents, South Carolina's public pension funds need more than $25 billion. That's a lot of Benjamins. Despite being a right-to-work state with no union contracts involved in the pension plans, SC is among the most poorly-funded. High fees and poor investment returns have been an ongoing issue.
Sharing this piece I wrote about Opportunity Zones in South Carolina - Some of the hottest real estate in the nation's #1 tourist destination is an Opportunity Zone
New York's property-tax system is so unfair. David Rockefeller's gift of 346 acres to New York state shows how the inequity continues. Will the governor sign the bill to conduct a study to dig deeper into the investigation I launched two years ago? It's among four bills in Albany related to my research.
Story about Ravitch and affordable housing
Hi guys, have any of the municipalities or states you cover started hybrid pension plans (defined benefits capped at a certain amount and above that employees can invest in defined contributions type plan)? I wrote the following story on Philly negotiating hybrid pension plans for all new non-uniform workers (along with some other changes) and when I asked officials here if any other cities had done this or who they were modeling after they said no one to their knowledge. So, I'm curious if anyone has reported on hybrid pension plans and whether more cities, states are doing this?
Interesting report about Amazon's national contract to provide cities and schools with office and classroom supplies
Interesting piece on the misconceptions of the pension crisis
Hi Ravitch folks: Wanted to share that we're hiring a new reporter in my state capital bureau.
You can't talk about Amazon in Seattle without talking about housing affordability. It's the price you pay for "superstar" city status. KUOW Region of Boom coverage.
KUOW Public Radio's Region of Boom reporting team has been covering Seattle's growth - therefore Amazon.