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    Entries in retirement (8)


    The Week in Public Finance: Puerto Rico's Quasi-Bankruptcy, Congress Meddles With State Retirement Plans and More

    BY  MAY 5, 2017

    Puerto Rico (Sort of) Declares Bankruptcy

    Puerto Rico declared a form of bankruptcy protection this week that puts it in uncharted territory for U.S. governments and municipal finance.

    As a territory, Puerto Rico is not eligible to file for Chapter 9 protection. But thanks to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, it has a similar option available to it: Title III protection.

    The act, which was passed by Congress and went into effect last July, put a temporary moratorium on litigation regarding Puerto Rico’s more than $70 billion in bond debt and created a seven-member financial oversight board with final say over the commonwealth’s finance decisions. The litigation moratorium was lifted on May 1, and with creditor negotiations going nowhere, the government is allowed to file debt restructuring petitions in federal court.

    The Takeaway: Puerto Rico has been in a financial downward spiral for years. When it first started defaulting on debt, there were concerns that it could have a negative ripple effect on the municipal market. As it turns out, those concerns have not been justified. So, while this latest move by the commonwealth is a great concern for anyone with money tied up in Puerto Rico, there have been few concerns that the event will cast a shadow over other U.S. governments now issuing bonds.

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    As the Clock Ticks, Senate Stalls on State-Run Retirement Plans

    Congress could overturn a rule that allows states to create private-sector retirement programs. But it only has a limited time to do it.
    BY  APRIL 19, 2017

    The U.S. Capitol (FlickrCC/Geoff Livingston)

    Late last month, Congress voted to overturn an Obama-era rule that cleared the way for cities to create retirement programs for private-sector workers that didn't have one through their employer. But a similar resolution targeting the rule as it applies to states is stuck.

    For the past three weeks, that resolution has lingered in uncertainty as the Senate stalls on taking an up or down vote. Many believe that signals an opportunity. "Based on the conversations we've had with staff and colleagues working on this," says Cristina Martin Firvida of AARP, which supports the Obama-era regulation, "I think there are a number of senators who still have a lot of questions about the state rule."

    The rule, which was issued by the Department of Labor, reaffirmed cities' and states' legal right to help support private-sector savings programs for small businesses. Seven states are implementing such programs, while another dozen states and cities are considering them.

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    The Week in Public Finance: Oil State Woes, Why 401(k)s Might Not Be For All and More

    BY  MARCH 3, 2017

    Oil State Woes

    Oklahoma's credit rating was downgraded this week, making it the third oil state in just one month to suffer such a blow. S&P Global Ratings pushed Oklahoma's rating down to AA, citing the state's chronically weak revenue. The downgrade comes as news broke this week that the state is facing a nearly $900 million shortfall.

    "Collectively the state's financial position has deteriorated to a point that further precludes the state from building up reserves in subsequent fiscal years,” says S&P credit analyst Oscar Padilla, who adds the state is now more vulnerable to regional or national economic weakness.

    This is Oklahoma's third consecutive year with a deficit, and the second straight year of a so-called revenue failure, when collections fall more than 5 percent below estimates.

    The action follows downgrades in two other oil states last month: Moody’s Investors Service downgraded West Virginia and Louisiana one notch each. States that rely on oil and energy for significant portions of their economy have had to grapple with revenue shortfalls since the price of oil dropped drastically a year and a half ago.

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    The Week in Public Finance: Battling Over Retirement, Gorsuch on Online Sales Taxes and Fiscal Irresponsiblity

    BY  FEBRUARY 10, 2017

    A Curious Battle Over Retirement Security

    Congressional Republicans this week made a move to block states’ efforts to expand access to retirement savings to all citizens. Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg and Florida Rep. Francis Rooney have introduced a resolution that would overturn a Department of Labor (DOL) rule last year that reaffirmed states’ legal right to help support private-sector savings programs for small businesses.

    Walberg, chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, said the DOL rule created a “loophole” that undermined the retirement security of working families because it could discourage small businesses from setting up their own retirement program. “Our nation faces difficult retirement challenges," he said, "but more government isn’t the solution."

    The resolution comes as seven states are in the midst of and more than a dozen states -- and even some cities -- are considering establishing such programs. Called Secure Choice, the programs require most employers that don’t currently offer a pre-tax retirement savings program to automatically enroll employees into one. The programs are run independently from the state and employees can opt out at any time.

    The AARP issued a swift and harsh rebuke of the resolution, noting that 529 college savings programs give states precedent for creating independently managed, pre-tax savings accounts. Overturning “this rulemaking will have a significant chilling effect on states, sending the political message that state flexibility is not a priority,” wrote AARP Executive Vice President Nancy A. LeaMond.

    The Takeaway: The facts upon which this political gamesmanship are based are, well, weak.

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    No 401(k)? No Problem. States Have You Covered.

    Several states are preparing to offer a retirement plan that helps private-sector workers -- and taxpayers -- save money.
    BY  FEBRUARY 8, 2017

    This July, Oregon will become the first state to offer a retirement plan to part- and full-time private-sector workers who don't have access to one through their employer. The program is ultimately expected to cover nearly one million workers in the state.

    Six other states -- California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington -- are also planning to roll out similar programs within the next five years. When that happens, the seven states will cover nearly one-quarter of the nation's private-sector workers without an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

    Called Secure Choice, these programs have been catching on since California in 2012 decided to study the feasibility of creating one. They aren't pensions but instead independently managed and pooled retirement accounts. The programs pay for themselves through fees, so states aren't liable for the cost. In addition to the seven states that have approved a program, at least eight other states -- including populous New York -- have or are considering legislation to launch their own.

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