Brookings seeks papers for Municipal Finance Conference

The Brookings Institution is seeking research papers for its 11th Annual Municipal Finance Conference to be held July 18-19.

The conference is a joint venture of Brookings, Brandeis University, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago and this year is particularly interested in papers on “the impact of COVID on finances national and local governments and lessons learned, innovations in infrastructure financing (particularly relevant in the wake of the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill), threats posed by and responses to climate change, and evolving of the municipal bond market. »

“We believe there is substantial benefit in bringing together people who are in the muni market with people who are in state and local government and academics who study both the muni market and the tax policy of state and local,” said Hutchins manager David Wessel. Center for Fiscal and Monetary Policy. “The silos in this industry are so overwhelming that over time I think we’ve managed to break them down and get some interaction.”

The conference agenda is generally divided between emerging topics that are in the news such as COVID-19 and climate change and classic muni topics such as regulatory concerns, factors affecting liquidity and others. more typical concerns. Although the agenda has yet to be released, it is generally split into two: one focused on capital markets and the other focused on policy.

Richard Ryffel, professor of financial practice at Washington University in St. Louis, started the conference 12 years ago in response to a siled market. “What I saw in the practice of municipal finance was that there just wasn’t a lot of science behind it,” he said.

“The capital markets track can look at how you value bond options, callable versus non-callable bonds, and bank ownership of bonds versus market ownership of bonds,” Richard said. Ryffel, professor of financial practice at Washington University in St. Louis. “Anything to do with structuring, issuing and trading bonds that would fall into the category of capital markets.”

“The policy category is where the Hutchins Center has been really helpful because it brings connections to other think tanks and foundations,” Ryffel added. “For policy, we would look at things like bankruptcy, bond disclosure, bond ratings, pension funding or lack thereof and stuff like that.”

The conference began 12 years ago when Ryffel attended a presentation by Daniel Bergstresser, associate professor of finance at Brandeis University and noticed the wide chasm that existed between scholars and practitioners of municipal finance.

“I don’t know the stats as well as he does and he didn’t know the market,” said Ryffel, who, in addition to his duties as a part-time teacher, serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer of heritage for First Bank.

“What I saw in the practice of municipal finance was that there just wasn’t a lot of science behind it,” he said. “Issuers didn’t understand things like how to price call options and the trades weren’t always tax-efficient because nobody was studying it, unlike corporate finance and stock valuation. assets of taxable bonds or stocks, where there’s tons of research.”

Both then approached the Brookings Institution, where the economics program wanted to focus on areas of fiscal policy that don’t get enough attention and where state and local finance seemed like a great option.

“We are more convinced of this every day,” Wessel said.

Over the years, the judges have seen more and more submissions from muni market participants, of which they expect around 100 this year. But the conference itself continued to be a success in their eyes due to the crossover of so many market segments, which was not the case before the conference started.

“It improved the research,” said Justin Marlowe, a research professor at the University of Chicago. “It has made the community of practitioners more aware of what we are learning about how the market works and there has certainly been a great conversation with regulators and others interested in policy and market structure. .”

The submission deadline is March 4, and a panel of approximately 20 judges, led by Ryffel, Bergstresser, Wessel, and Marlowe, will select conference-worthy papers by March 28.

The submission form also requires submitters to indicate their preference for holding the conference in person or virtually, following the move to a virtual conference in 2020 and 2021. The panel will then make a decision on how the conference will be held. .

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