Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

The legacy of former Wisconsin State Senator Paul Offner is celebrated with a public lecture series sponsored by the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Speakers have backgrounds and careers that span government, research, and education, just like that of Paul Offner.

At the time of his death in 2004, Offner was a consultant at the Urban Institute, where he contributed to breakthrough research on poverty in the United States. He coauthored, with Harry Holzer and Peter Edelman, Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men (Urban Institute Press 2006).

Before joining the Urban Institute in 2002, Offner was a research professor at the Institute for Health Care Research & Policy at Georgetown University. Earlier, he was commissioner for the District of Columbia's Commission on Health Care Finance, overseeing the city's Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Programs.

He served as the chief health and welfare counselor for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, responsible for health and welfare policy development, including Medicare, Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and child welfare. During this time, he was a member of the White House Health Care Task Force and coordinator of welfare reform for President Bill Clinton's transition team. Offner was also a senior legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and deputy director for the Ohio Department of Human Services. While serving in Ohio state government, Offner administered the state's cash assistance and Medicaid programs.

Before his time in Ohio, Offner served in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature. He represented the La Crosse area in the Wisconsin Senate from 1977 to 1984 and in the Assembly from 1975 to 1977. As a Wisconsin state senator, Offner was assistant majority leader, chaired the Joint Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Health and Social Services, and authored laws that licensed health-maintenance and preferred-provider organizations, established competency testing in public schools, and reformed the state's civil service system.

Offner grew up in Italy and earned a doctorate in economics from Princeton University. He also received a master's degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and a bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, from Amherst College. He authored numerous articles on health care, welfare, and social policy that were published in national journals, and he was a frequent contributor to the op-ed page of The Washington Post and other major newspapers.

Offner Lecturers

2016: Ron Haskins, Isabel Sawhill, and C. Eugene Steuerle (MA ’72, MS ’73, PhD ‘75), Improving Opportunities for Children, November 3, Urban Institute. Video

2014: Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson spoke September 30 in Madison. Video

2012: Former U.S. House Representative Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin, November 14 in Madison. Video

2011: Former U.S. House Representative David Obey of Wisconsin, November 30 at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Video

2010: John Norquist (MA '88), president of Congress for the New Urbanism, September 23 in Madison. Audio

2008: E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist

2007: Harry Holzer and Peter Edleman, co-authors of Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men

Faculty Perspectives