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Fixing Public Sector Finances:The Accounting and Reporting Lever

AUGUST 3, 2023

UCLA Law Review

Fixing Public Sector Finances:
The Accounting and Reporting Lever

James Naughton & Holger Spamann


The finances of many states, cities, and other localities are in dire straits. In this Article, we argue that partial responsibility for this situation lies with the outdated and ineffective financial reporting regime for public entities. Ineffective reporting has obscured and continues to obscure the extent of municipal financial problems, thus delaying or even preventing corrective actions. Worse, ineffective reporting has created incentives for accounting gimmicks that have directly contributed to the dramatic decline of public sector finances. Fixing the reporting regime is thus a necessary first step toward fiscal recovery. We provide concrete examples of advisable changes in accounting rules and advocate for institutional changes, particularly Securities and Exchange Commission involvement, that we hope will lead to better public accounting rules generally.

Illinois in Decline: What Do the Numbers Say?

AUGUST 3, 2023 | by Sheila Weinberg

On Tuesday, August 1, 2023, Greg Bishop of WMAY Springfield's Morning News interviewed me. We discussed the recently unveiled budget summary for FY2024 by the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). This is a bi-partisan Commission that includes Democratic and Republican state senators and house members.

Data Analytics Lesson Plan

JUNE 15, 2023

Download file Data Analytics Lesson Plan

Director of the Truth in Accounting Project at the University of Denver, Christine Kuglin, presented in 2023 in Orlando at the American Accounting Association Intensive Data Analytics conference, where she introduced the website to university educators from around the United States. She and her co-presenter, Amy Cardillo from Metropolitan State University of Denver, designed interactive lesson plans which can be implemented in classrooms with little or no training.

Inconsistent bank regulation spells trouble for investors

JUNE 12, 2023 | XBRL US | by Campbell Pryde

"The failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was not a surprise to regulators or investors who took the time to check the bank’s financial statements and footnotes. By March of 2021, unrealized debt securities losses for the bank had already begun to climb, reaching ($1,343) million by year-end December 2021, and leaping to ($15,160) million a year later, all the while the bank’s stockholders’ equity remained flat."

On the Brink of Financial Collapse: 10 Cities In Serious Danger of Bankruptcy

JUNE 6, 2023 | MSN | by Ben Rice

"Sobering Statistics 

The study, called Financial State of the Cities 2023, was done by Truth in Accounting. It has some difficult truths: 50 out of 75 cities could not pay their bills; the combined debt for all 75 cities is $267 billion. Moreover, elected officials didn’t include the cost of government in this figure, instead pushing it onto future taxpayers."

New Mexico posts the nation's lowest high school graduation rate in 2020.

MAY 15, 2023 | by Eric Piatek

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, New Mexico posted the nation’s lowest high school graduation rate for the most recently available data (Excluding Washington D.C.). The state’s graduation rate of 76.9 percent was nearly 9 percent lower than the national average, despite an improvement from 2019.

IL Taxpayer Burden

MAY 8, 2023

Illinois workers pay 21% more for workers' compensation claims than other states

MAY 4, 2023 | THE CENTER SQUARE | by Andrew Hensel

"(The Center Square) – Illinoisans are paying more than other states for their worker's compensation claims.

A report from The Workers Compensation Research Institute looks at all worker's compensation claims over the last 48 months. The numbers show that total costs per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Illinois have grown 2% annually since 2012.

Sheila Weinberg of Truth In Accounting told The Center Square that the overall price of claims in Illinois is substantially higher than the median in other states."

Financial State of the Union 2023

APRIL 20, 2023

Our Financial State of the Union report found that the financial condition of the U.S. government worsened by more than $12.7 trillion in 2022. The majority of the federal debt can be attributed to $64.31 trillion in Medicare promises and $47.74 trillion in Social Security. These are promises that have been made to our citizens, but the government has not set any money aside to fund them.

Manchester Gets a ā€˜Dā€™ From Truth in Accounting Org Over Rising Taxpayer Debt

APRIL 14, 2023 | NH JOURNAL | by Damien Fisher

"As three-term Mayor Joyce Craig prepares to leave office later this year — possibly to run for governor — she’s leaving behind $276 million in debt, a hole in city budgeting most taxpayers know nothing about."


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