For 793 days, the Illinois budget impasse polarized the state legislature and left crucial services without funding. Roosevelt University alum Hans Zigmund was sitting in the House gallery when his months of cross-collaboration paid off and the fiscal year 2018 budget passed.
“In my entire professional career, I have never been as proud as I was in that moment,” Hans said.
As director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Hans worked tirelessly on the bill that restored funding for human services, education, deteriorating state facilities and crumbling infrastructure. The budget also helped restore confidence in the grant recipients who depended on aid from the state.
Today Hans works as Alaska’s finance director, where his work brings transparency and accountability to statewide accounting operations. This spring, he was honored with Roosevelt’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his outstanding professional accomplishments.
New Schools of Thought
As an undergraduate student, Hans was only exposed to “neoclassical” schools of thought in economics. He applied to the Roosevelt master’s program in economics because he wanted to study the subject from multiple perspectives that challenged his point of view.
“I reasoned that it was impossible for me to develop my own system of economic thought without understanding each of the various ways of approaching the questions of economics,” Hans said. “I don’t know of many economics departments that will discuss the spectrum of economics from Minsky to Mises. Roosevelt is special in that way.”
Roosevelt helped Hans build the research skills to launch his early career in economic forecasting. He also learned how to listen to opposing points of view and manage friendly disagreements — a skill he believes is crucial to breaking deadlocks like the Illinois budget stalemate. Hans spent hours outside of the classroom talking with his professors, debating everything from policy to research methods.
“All too often, individuals talk past one another in public policy discussions,” Hans said. “My time at Roosevelt equipped me to finesse public policy conversations across party lines for the greater good.”
Economic Policy in Illinois
During his tenure in the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Hans led investor and rating agency meetings for bond market transactions, including a $965 million refunding that would save the state an estimated $96 million. He also testified in front of Illinois General Assembly committees on the state economy, tax credits, revenue estimates and pension reform.
To help end the budget stalemate, Hans worked with 20 state legislators to negotiate a $73 billion operating budget and $20 billion capital budget for fiscal year 2018. The bipartisan budget restored funding to projects that improved the lives of citizens across the state.
Hans is most proud of his role in funding the Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest, the Department of Corrections inpatient treatment center in Joliet, and the State Fairgrounds Colosseum in Springfield.
“North to the Future”
In 2019, Hans traveled 3,000 miles to accept a position as finance director of the state of Alaska. The role, similar to the elected comptroller position in Illinois, promised to expose him to new and interesting projects in public finance.
“One of the reasons I was so excited to take on this new opportunity in Alaska is because the job offers new challenges,” he said. “It’s critical that policy makers in the legislature and the governor’s office have a transparent and unbiased line of sight into the state fiscal condition.”
Hans and his team oversee behind-the-scenes accounting operations for the state government. They are currently investing in improvements to the State of Alaska Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which gives lawmakers timely and accurate financial information to make their policy decisions. Hans’s team also resolves old audit findings, oversees grant recipients through the statewide single audit and is in the process of improving payroll efficiency.
The Alaska state motto is “North to the Future,” and Hans and his team have embraced the leading edge of technology with an ambitious upgrade of the state ERP system. Once implemented, the technology will make Alaska a nationwide leader in accounting information systems.
Hans’ advice for current Roosevelt students is that “the most important aspect of your university education is to become a critical thinker.”
“Find someone you like and respect that you can disagree with and still be friends,” he added. “Have a good-natured debate with your friend and still be able to shake hands, laugh and enjoy a nice glass of bourbon. It’s a skill too often missing in society today.”