Magazine article Government Finance Review

Winter Meeting 1998

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Winter Meeting 1998

Article excerpt

Capitol Hill was the site of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) annual Winter Meeting for two days in early February, when the association's five standing committees met to consider recommended practices and policy statements and to develop committee work plans. The 160 members of these committees constitute the policy development bodies of the GFOA; they meet twice each year, at the winter meeting and at annual conference. The winter meeting offers the opportunity for these GFOA representatives to meet with members of Congress to discuss issues of concern to state and local finance officials. Policy statements and recommended practices approved by the committees are later considered by the GFOA Executive Board. Policies approved by the board are put to the vote of the members at the annual meeting during annual conference.

Participants at the Winter Meeting attended two general sessions to hear presentations from Martha Phillips, executive director of the Concord Coalition, and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND). The Concord Coalition is a bipartisan nationwide grassroots organization dedicated to equitable Social Security and Medicare reform, long-term economic growth, and eliminating the federal budget deficit. Phillips' discussion highlighted the differences between the debt and the deficit, their growth trends, and the implication of current spending policies on future capabilities to support federal programs. She stressed that with the expected growth in entitlement programs in the next few decades (due to the retirement of the baby boomers and the dropping number of workers per beneficiary), the public debt will continue to grow at an alarming rate unless significant changes are made to the U.S.'s budgeting structure and fiscal policies.

Senator Dorgan, who has been an outspoken advocate for state and local government efforts to maintain their rights of taxation, spoke on the state of the American economy and the issue of state and local Internet taxation. He reminded the audience that a healthy economy rests on citizens' confidence, not on policymakers. Discussing the issue of Internet taxation, Dorgan emphasized the fact that state and local governments will experience severely impaired revenue bases if their authority to tax Internet purchases is preempted by the federal government. He stressed that legislation for preemption of that authority will be enacted by Congress unless groups such as the GFOA educate their members about the importance and reasons for this type of taxing authority and unless individuals become active about informing their representatives in Congress.

The agenda of the Committee on Governmental Budgeting and Management included a recommended budget practice that endorses the work of the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting. Members also explored potential training opportunities for educating local government officials on this recommended practice and how to implement it, as well as the linking of recommended practices to existing criteria in the GFOA's Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program. A new subcommittee on technology was created to explore ways of implementing the telecommunications task force recommendations. Also covered were topics to be taken up by a special task force on state and local revenues, which will comprise representatives of the committees on budgeting and debt.

The Committee on Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting adopted two recommended practices: one on the optimal presentation of securities lending transactions in financial statements, consistent with generally accepted accounting principles, and one encouraging greater use of full-cost accounting for municipal solid waste landfills. Other issues discussed were the auditing of airport passenger facilities charges, in-substance defeasance of debt, recommendations to the GASB suggesting the reduction of note disclosure for state and local governments, and ethics interpretations on auditing. …

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