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    Entries in Week in Public Finance (6)

    Friday
    Apr072017

    The Week in Public Finance: States Warned of 'Profound Shift' in Finances, Hurting in Illinois and More

    BY  APRIL 7, 2017

    State Finances to Experience a 'Profound Shift'

    Some states might soon be facing a come to Jesus moment. That was the sobering message this week from a senior analyst at S&P Global Ratings, who warned that a “profound shift” is occurring in state finances pressured by pension debt, slow revenue growth and demographic changes.

    Gabe Petek noted Illinois, Kentucky and New Jersey are particularly vulnerable as they have persistently struggled to balance budgets during one of the longest economic expansion periods in modern U.S. history. But they’re not the only ones who should be put on notice. "This long period of relative calm may have lulled some people into complacency when it comes to state finances," he wrote in an editorial for The Hill. "It shouldn’t have."

    In addition to slower revenue growth, declining worker-to-beneficiary ratios in state retirement systems and rising Medicaid enrollments "have meant that fiscal stress is no longer confined to recessionary times," he wrote.

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    Friday
    Feb242017

    The Week in Public Finance: Pensions Protest Bathroom Bills, a Billion-Dollar Showdown in Kansas and More

    BY  FEBRUARY 24, 2017

    Pension Funds Mess With Texas

    The country’s largest public pension systems and investors are pressuring Texas officials not to approve a so-called bathroom bill introduced in January. The legislation targets transgender individuals by requiring them to use the public restroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate.

    Pointing to North Carolina, which lost hundreds of millions in business from canceled sporting events, concerts and conventions after its bathroom bill became law last year, the group warned in a letter that Texas could meet the same fate. Already, the National Football League and the NCAA have said that the siting of future events in Texas would be jeopardized if lawmakers move forward.

    The more than 30 signatories on the letter include comptrollers, controllers and treasurers of California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as major firms such as BlackRock and T. Rowe Price. Collectively, the group represents more than $11 trillion in assets.

    The Takeaway: Threats like these aren't new. Called social divesting, stewards of major pensions have increasingly urged corporate boards in recent years to make policy changes, such as pressuring energy companies to move away from fossil fuels.

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    Friday
    Feb172017

    The Week in Public Finance: Diverging County Economies, Treasurers Talk Trump and Sanctuary City Threats

    BY  FEBRUARY 17, 2017

    County Recoveries Coincide With Political Shifts

    The nation's economic recovery accelerated in 2016, with more than 1 in 4 counties reporting a full recovery to pre-recession levels on four key economic indicators. That portion is a huge jump from last year when 1 in 10 reported fully recovering counties, according to the National Association of Counties (NACo).

    The four indicators are: job totals, unemployment rates, economic output (GDP) and median home prices. Two-thirds of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties have recovered on at least three of the economic indicators.

    Most of the counties that have fully recovered are in Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. In addition, the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and the West Coast have many nearly-to-fully recovered counties. Large counties (more than 500,000 residents) had the highest rate of full recovery at 41 percent. In contrast, more than three-quarters of small counties (fewer than 50,000 residents) still had not reached their pre-recession peaks in any of the indicators by the close of 2016.

    The Takeaway: Both the acceleration of the economic recovery and the fact that it’s mostly happening in very populated areas is widening the gap between the municipal haves and have nots. It also partly explains shifting political allegiances in some mid-sized counties in 2016.

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    Friday
    Feb102017

    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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    Friday
    Feb032017

    The Week in Public Finance: States Vulnerable to NAFTA Changes, New Amazon Taxes and a Credit Ratings Spat

    BY  FEBRUARY 3, 2017

     

    Where a Change to NAFTA Could Hurt the Most

    When it comes to trade, a handful of states rely heavily on Canada. That relationship could significantly change if President Trump follows through on his intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

    In an analysis, RBC Capital Markets’ Chris Mauro looks at which states are the most exposed to changes. As it turns out, half of Canada’s exports wind up in the U.S., and 35 states have Canada as their top export destination. Michigan and Illinois are the top destinations, absorbing 16 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of North Dakota’s goods land in Canada and nearly half of Maine, Michigan and Ohio’s exports are sent there.

    The Takeaway: Trump has called NAFTA a bad deal for the U.S. Although no specifics have been outlined, it’s safe to assume that he would promote more protectionist policies. In his analysis, Mauro warns that “the risk that Canada implements countervailing duties or that the U.S dollar appreciates significantly would severely affect the competitiveness of these U.S. states.”

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