LISTEN: Special Briefing on COVID-19, State and Local Fiscal Stress, and the Politics of Federal Aid

Title special briefing with a podium under a spotlight



Special Briefing on COVID-19State and Local Fiscal Stress, and the Politics of Federal Aid

Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 11 a.m. EDT

The Volcker Alliance and Penn Institute for Urban Research cohosted an online Special Briefing with Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Volcker Alliance board member; Robin Prunty, managing director and head of analytics and research for S&P Global Ratings—U.S. Public Finance; Richard A. Ravitch, former New York State lieutenant governor and Volcker Alliance board member; and Frank H. Shafroth, director, Center for State and Local Government Leadership at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University.

The panelists discussed the politics, probability, and possible shape of additional federal emergency aid to states and municipalities following passage of the CARES Act. They also examined the likelihood of state and local fiscal distress, and how it may be addressed, especially if Congress should delay or reject further funding.

Moderated by William Glasgall, Volcker Alliance senior vice president and director of state and local initiatives, and Susan Wachter, co-director of Penn IUR, this briefing was the tenth in a series of sixty-minute online conversations featuring experts from the Volcker Alliance’s national research network and Penn IUR, along with other leading academics, economists, and federal, state, and local leaders from around the US.

 This special briefing featured:

  • Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Volcker Alliance board member
  • Robin Prunty, managing director and head of analytics and research for S&P Global Ratings—U.S. Public Finance
  • Richard Ravitch, former New York State lieutenant governor and Volcker Alliance board member
  • Frank H. Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University


William Glasgall is senior vice president and director of state and local initiatives at the Volcker Alliance. In this role, he has supervised the publication of numerous working papers and studies, including four Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting reports. Previously, he was managing editor for states and municipalities at Bloomberg News and senior editor at BusinessWeek Magazine, where he won two Overseas Press Club reporting awards. In 2020, he was named a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Urban Research. Mr. Glasgall is a member of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts, a member of the Municipal Fiscal Health Working Group of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and a governor of the Overseas Press Club Foundation. A Boston University graduate, he was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University and a DAAD Fellow at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a columnist and contributing editor for The Atlantic. He is also Chairman of the Campaign Legal Center. For thirty years he was an election eve analyst for CBS News; since 2012, he has been a principal on-air election eve analyst for BBC News. He is also a consultant for the Emmy-award winning HBO series VEEP. He helped create the Continuity of Government Commission, where he served as senior counselor.

Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold. In his decades of involvement in political reform, he played a major role in Senate committee reform, the creation of the Congressional Office of Compliance to ensure Congress was governed by the laws it enacts for others, and the creation of the House Office of Congressional Ethics. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004, and he directed the Academy Project on Stewarding America. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by the Economist “a classic”); and the New York Times best seller, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Thomas E. Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books, and updated in a paperback version in September 2013, named Book of the Year by Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, one of the ten best books on politics in 2012 by The New Yorker, and one of the best books of 2012 by the Washington Post. An expanded edition, retitled “It’s Even Worse Than It Was,” was published in spring 2016. His new book, with EJ Dionne and Thomas E. Mann, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported was published by St Martin’s Press in September 2017 and was immediately on the New York Times and Washington Post best seller lists.

Mr. Ornstein holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Minnesota and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater in 2007 and was given the second annual “Above Average” Alumni Award (named for its first recipient, Garrison Keillor) by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association in 2013. He received the 2006 Goodnow Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association for service to the political science profession. Mr. Ornstein was spotlighted as one of 2012’s 100 Top Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine and has been profiled in the alumni magazines of both the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan.

Robin Prunty is a Managing Director, Head of Analytics and Research for S&P Global Ratings – U.S. Public Finance. In this role, she is responsible for implementing the analytical, research and market education strategy for the department and chairs the Analytical Oversight and Consistency Council. She also represents U.S. Public Finance in various capacities to discuss the municipal bond market and S&P's ratings, research and methodologies to intermediaries, bond issuers, investors, industry associations, media outlets, and other market participants. 

Prior to her current role, Robin was a Lead Analytical Manager with responsibility for the U.S. States, Higher Education, and Not For Profit Health Care practices and Analytical Manager for the U.S. States and Public Higher Education Group. Robin was also the Sector Leader for state credit ratings from 2001-2010 and part of the analytic team that followed credit issues relating to pensions and other post-employment benefits. 

Robin has a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Siena College and a Master of Public Administration from the University at Albany - Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. She is a on the Board of the Women’s Bond Club, a Trustee for the Citizens Budget Commission and on the Board of Governors for the National Federation of Municipal Analysts. She is a member of the of the Municipal Forum of New York (past President, Board of Governors), the Society of Municipal Analysts, Municipal Analysts Group of New York and Northeast Women in Public Finance. She received the Municipal Forum of New York’s Career Achievement Award in 2019, Women in 

Public Finance “She’s Our Hero” award in 2017, Northeast Women in Public Finance Trailblazer award in 2015 and the Rising Star award from the Women’s Bond Club in 2010.

Richard Ravitch is an attorney, businessman, and public official, engaged in both private and public enterprise for more than fifty years. He began his career as a principal of the HRH Construction Corporation, where he supervised the development, financing, and construction of over 45,000 units of affordable housing in New York, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and other locations. In 1975, he was appointed chairman of the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) by Governor Hugh Carey. The UDC, a “moral obligation” financing and development agency with 30,000 dwelling units under construction, had become insolvent and faced the first municipal bankruptcy since the 1930s.

From 1975 to 1976, Mr. Ravitch assisted New York City and State officials in resolving the city’s defaults. In 1979, he was appointed chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), where he recruited operating officials from the private sector with experience in marketing as well as management and operations, and developed a long-term capital plan, budget, and financing for a system-wide upgrade of operating equipment, roadbed, and signal capabilities. For his MTA work, he was awarded the American Public Transit Association’s Individual of the Year Award in 1982.

Following his MTA service, Mr. Ravitch led the effort to recapitalize The Bowery Savings Bank, once the nation’s largest mutual savings bank, arranging for its acquisition from FDIC by an investor group and serving as chairman and chief executive. Subsequently, Mr. Ravitch was retained by the owners of the Major League Baseball clubs to serve as president of the Player Relations Committee and oversee the creation of a revenue sharing plan and proposal for players.

In 1999, Mr. Ravitch was appointed co-chair of the Millennial Housing Commission to examine the federal government’s role in meeting the nation’s growing affordable housing challenges. He more recently served as lieutenant governor of the State of New York and was co-chair of the State Budget Crisis Task Force with former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul A. Volcker. Mr. Ravitch is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia College and received his bachelor of laws from Yale University School of Law.

Frank H. Shafroth is director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership, Schar School of Policv and Government, George Mason University. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar and previously worked in the US House for former Reps. Gladys Spellman (D-Maryland) and Jim Moran (D-Virginia); and in the US Senate for former Senator John Heinz (R-Pennsylvania) and the Senate Banking Committee. He was the director of federal relations for the National League of Cities and the National Governors Association and has also worked for the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Susan Wachter is Sussman Professor and professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. From 1998 to 2001, she served as assistant secretary for policy development and research, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the senior urban policy official and principal advisor to the secretary. At The Wharton School, she was chairperson of the real estate department and professor of real estate and finance from July 1997 until her 1998 appointment to HUD. At Penn, she co-founded and currently is co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research. She also founded and currently serves as director of Wharton’s Geographical Information Systems Lab.

Wachter was the editor of Real Estate Economics from 1997 to 1999 and currently serves on the editorial boards of several real estate journals. She is the author of more than two hundred scholarly publications and the recipient of several awards for teaching excellence at The Wharton School. Her forthcoming edited volume, Perspectives on Fair Housing, will be published by Penn Press. Previous volumes include Shared Prosperity in America’s Communities and Neighborhood and Life Chances. She has served on multiple for-profit and not-for-profit boards and currently serves on the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee of Fannie Mae and the Office of Financial Research Advisory Committee of the US Treasury. She frequently comments on national media and testifies to Congress on US housing policy.