Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday June 2, 2009

Leading Tax Policy Expert to Join Maxwell School

Dr. Leonard Burman named to Moynihan Chair in Public Affairs

For more information, please contact:

Jill Leonhardt

Nationally recognized tax policy and public finance expert Leonard E. Burman has been named the first holder of the Maxwell School’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan Chair in Public Affairs, effective August 24. Burman is currently director of the highly respected Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC) in Washington, DC, which he co-founded; he is also an institute fellow at the Urban Institute and a visiting professor at Georgetown University.

Burman brings to the Maxwell School more than 25 years of high-level experience in a range of academic, federal government, and public policy organizations. He was formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Analysis at the Department of the Treasury and a senior analyst at the Congressional Budget Office where he wrote influential studies on the tax treatment of health insurance and capital gains, the low-income housing credit, individual retirement accounts, investment tax credits, and the taxation of fringe benefits.

Under Burman’s guidance, the Tax Policy Center has become the nation’s preeminent independent source of unbiased tax analysis. During the 2008 campaign season, for instance, it was a popular resource for detailed reports on the presidential candidates’ tax plans, and its work could be found everywhere from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360° to Doonesbury.

Burman testifies frequently before congressional committees on tax and budget policy issues; his commentaries are broadcast by the syndicated public radio program, Marketplace; and he also appears regularly in national and regional media. He is the author or co-author of scores of articles and op-eds and a book, The Labyrinth of Capital Gains Tax Policy: A Guide for the Perplexed, and co-editor of two other volumes.

His recent research has examined the individual alternative minimum tax; the changing role of taxation in social policy; and tax incentives for savings, retirement, and health insurance. The New York Times Magazine’s 2008 “Year in Ideas” issue spotlighted the proposed Rising-Tide Tax System, a concept by Burman and Yale University’s Robert Shiller to automatically adjust taxes for shifts in economic inequality. Burman is vice president of the National Tax Association, on the editorial board of Public Finance Quarterly, and a member of the IMF Fiscal Analysis Division’s Panel of Experts.

“We are extremely fortunate to have recruited Dr. Len Burman as the inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan Chair in Public Affairs at the Maxwell School,” says Dean Mitchel Wallerstein. “As a leading national authority on tax and budgetary policy, Len will add an extraordinary depth of expertise and Washington experience to an already strong public administration faculty. His professional interests address many of the same policy issues that were of concern to the late Senator Moynihan. Indeed, it is our hope and expectation that, through Dr. Burman’s research, teaching and public engagement activities, future generations of faculty and students at the Maxwell School—and elsewhere—will be reminded of the important role that Senator Moynihan played in elevating debate and public understanding of critical domestic policy problems.”

When Burman helped to found the Tax Policy Center in 2002, his goal was to elevate public discourse and provide facts and evidence for press, policymakers, and other interested parties that went beyond the usual political spin, misinformation, and mystery that largely drove the debate. It was the kind of effort that Senator Moynihan would have applauded. “Pat Moynihan educated the public on a breathtaking range of issues with his wonderfully cogent and eloquent books and his exceptional career of public service,” says Burman. “He was a great American – a Renaissance man who left an indelible mark on so many areas of public policy. I can think of no greater honor than to hold a chair in his name. And I will be joining an exceptional group of scholars at the Maxwell School who share Senator Moynihan’s passion for applying rigorous analysis to critical public policy challenges.”

Burman is not just a policy wonk. He sings in Polyhymnia, a small a cappella chorus in Washington, enjoys cooking, and is a serious cyclist. In 2005, he and his son, Paul, cycled across the United States to raise money for Partners In Health, an NGO that provides health care and much more to poor communities in Haiti and around the world. They raised $108,000.

The Moynihan Chair was endowed in 2007 by the Leon Levy Foundation in honor of the late Senator, who was a longtime friend and former faculty member of the Maxwell School. Shelby White, founding trustee of the Levy Foundation, says, “We are delighted that a scholar of Len Burman’s stature will be the inaugural holder of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Chair of Public Affairs. Pat was the consummate scholar, statesman, and friend. Len Burman has distinguished himself, particularly in the area of tax reform, calling for a tax code that is simpler, fairer, and more efficient.”

Moynihan began his academic career at the School as a junior faculty member in 1959-61. He then embarked on a long and storied life in public service, leading ultimately to his 24 years as a U.S. Senator from New York. During those years, the Senator served as a member of the Maxwell School’s Advisory Board and returned often to guest lecture and otherwise support the School and its students. In 1985, he established the annual Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award recognizing and rewarding outstanding junior Maxwell School faculty members. Upon his retirement from the Senate in 2001, he rejoined the School as a University Professor, the highest faculty rank at Syracuse University. He held that post until his death in March 2003.

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The Maxwell School of Syracuse University is the premier academic institution in the United States committed to scholarship, civic leadership, and education in public and international affairs. Maxwell is home to Syracuse University’s social science departments and to numerous nationally recognized multidisciplinary graduate programs in public policy, international studies, social policy, and conflict resolution. Maxwell's graduate program in public administration -- the first of its kind in the nation -- is ranked consistently the leading graduate public affairs program in the country.