Academy aims to get people talking about the budget and other challenges

The federal government should work more closely with its state and local partners to address budget shortfalls, the National Academy of Public Administration said Wednesday as part of a series on addressing deficits.  

The congressionally chartered, independent nonprofit, in partnership with the American Society for Public Administration, made its announcements as it launched a Memos to Leaders series, designed to start a dialogue on new solutions to domestic problems.

The discussions were headlined by former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., and former Democratic Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who drew from their experiences to advocate for better coordination across all levels of government.

“In recent decades,” Glendening said, “the use of a strong intergovernmental system as a forum for discussing the major domestic challenges facing our country, and as a framework for solving these challenges, has largely disappeared.”

Davis added, “What happens sometimes is that you might be able to solve a problem at one tier of government, but its passed down to the next [tier] and that doesn’t help anybody. It continues the fiscal stress.”

One possibility for intergovernmental collaboration would be instituting a variation of the sales tax where revenues would be shared across different levels of government, panelists said.

NAPA member Steve Redburn also outlined several ideas for reforming the budget process that were included in the first set of NAPA and ASPA memos. Among them were combining the authorizing and appropriating committees in Congress, prohibiting continuing resolutions to fund the government, and mandating the use of reconciliation -- a legislative tactic to expedite consideration of budget legislation.

“We need a working budget process and to sustain it over time,” Redburn said.

Throughout the summer, NAPA and ASPA plan to use their Memos to Leaders series to prompt discussion of issues such as recruiting top-level talent to the civil service; reforming the political appointee process; using technology to improve public engagement and government transparency; and eliminating overlap and waste.

“Success [of the Memos to Leaders program] will be measured by whether there is a new conversation,” ASPA Executive Director Antoinette Samuel said. “It is not within our means to make these changes, but it is within our means to put them on minds of the people who can.”

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