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    Friday
    Dec162016

    The Week in Public Finance: What the Rate Hike Means, a Legal Win for Online Sales Taxes and More

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
    BY  DECEMBER 16, 2016

    Movin' On Up

    The Federal Reserve announced a short-term interest rate hike on Wednesday, the first one in a year and a move that was largely expected. But what wasn’t on the radar was the Fed's announcement that it plans to raise rates three more times in 2017, up from previous expectations of two rate hikes.

    Given the reticence to move rates for most of the last decade, the faster pace for next year has municipal analyst Chris Mauro calling the decision a “rather splashy hawkish surprise.”

    The rate hike will move the target interest rate on short-term debt up one-quarter of a percent -- to a range of 0.5 to 0.75 percent. The Fed's previous rate hike was a year ago, and that was the first one in nine years.

    The Takeaway: The Fed's plan to raise rates signals that economic growth is accelerating.

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    Dec152016

    Startups Seek to Democratize the Muni Market

    They're bringing in new investors, big and small, to disperse the power and lower interest rates. It's already paying off for some governments.
    BY  DECEMBER 15, 2016

    For all the post-recession financial market reforms, few ultimately made their way to the municipal bond market. For the most part, the muni market remains a low-tech place by Wall Street standards, and one that's still largely controlled by the same group of big investors.

    "The muni market has a lot to do with relationships, power and influence," said Rob Novembre, a former trader who has spearheaded a new alternative bond trading system. "The bigger you are as an account, the more attention you get from sellers. If you buy bigger blocks [of bonds], that gets you more power."

    Thanks to Novembre's new startup and another in San Francisco, though, that's starting to change. The two companies are not only set to give the market a tech update but also to bring it more buyers. The idea is that more buyers will increase demand for municipal bonds and, in turn, will net governments lower interest rates on their debt.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Dec132016

    Budget Shortfalls Expected in the Most States Since Recession

    Almost half the states cut their budgets this year, and that trend is likely to continue into 2017.
    BY  DECEMBER 13, 2016

    Weak revenues are causing the most state budget shortfalls since the Great Recession.

    According to the National Association of State Budget Officers’ (NASBO) annual state spending survey, half of all states saw revenues come in lower than budgeted in fiscal 2016 and nearly as many (24) are seeing those weak revenue conditions carry into fiscal 2017, which ends in summer 2017 for most states. It marks the highest number of states falling short since 36 budgets missed their mark in 2010.

    As a result, 19 states made mid-year budget cuts in 2016, totaling $2.8 billion. That number of states “is historically high outside of a recessionary period,” according to the report.

    The revenue slowdown is caused mainly by slow income tax growth, even slower sales tax growth and an outright decline in corporate tax revenue

    Click to read more ...

    Monday
    Dec122016

    To Prepare for the Next Recession, States Take Stress Tests

    No government can be fully prepared for every economic twist and turn. Still, some are trying.
    BY  DECEMBER 12, 2016

    The Great Recession was uniquely devastating for states and localities because it hit all three major tax revenue sources: income, sales and property. It was a scenario that few, if any governments, were really prepared to absorb. As a result, governments were forced to make massive budget cuts.

    Now, as the recovery trudges on longer than most, a growing number of states are making sure they aren’t blindsided by the next downturn.

    Enter stress testing. The idea, which was borrowed from the U.S. Federal Reserve, essentially throws different economic scenarios at a state budget to see how revenues would be impacted.

    “We’re in an environment where everyone is starting to think about the next downturn and what that’s going to look like,” said Emily Raimes, a Moody’s Investors Service analyst. “A stress test is a tool for states to think about what types of programs they should commit to and how much to save now.”

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Dec092016

    The Week in Public Finance: Federal Budget Chaos, a Bankruptcy Win and Pension Portfolios

    BY  DECEMBER 9, 2016
    Chaos on Capitol Hill ... and in Statehouses

    As state lawmakers begin preparing for their fiscal 2018 budgets, their biggest challenge is in the unknown. With Donald Trump’s election, the future for key state and local funding is almost anybody’s guess.

    With Trump in the White House next year, Stan Collender, author of The Guide to The Federal Budget, predicts that a Republican-controlled Congress will move quickly on making major changes before the 2018 midterm elections. But after this unpredictable election, few are willing to predict what exactly those changes will be. All we know now is what’s on the table.

    Click to read more ...