Lisa's Feed
May 20, 2011

Jailbreak: U.S. states seek to escape prison costs

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – U.S. states have been
shackled for years by the rising cost of keeping inmates in
prison. Now they are planning a getaway.

In the final stretch of approving budgets for the next
fiscal year, many statehouses want to save money by changing
incarceration policies and closing prisons. Florida is set to
bring in more private contractors to run its prisons while Ohio
and Louisiana consider selling theirs.

May 18, 2011

Build America Bonds sellers saved billions-Treasury

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – U.S. state and local
governments that sold Build America Bonds, the taxable debt
created in the federal stimulus plan, “realized considerable
savings,” a Treasury official said on Wednesday.

Treasury found that issuers of the bonds, which paid them
federal rebates equal to 35 percent of interest, saved $20
billion, said John Bellows, acting assistant secretary for
economic policy.

May 10, 2011

US appeals court questions Obama healthcare lawsuit

, May 10 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on
Tuesday sharply questioned whether the state of Virginia could
challenge President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law,
which requires Americans to buy insurance in a bid to slow
healthcare costs.

The Obama administration is trying to save the individual
mandate after a Virginia federal judge agreed with the state it
was unconstitutional and struck down that part of the law.

May 10, 2011

Obama administration fights to save healthcare law

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) – Lawyers for President Barack Obama go to court on Tuesday to try to save the cornerstone of his healthcare overhaul, arguing that the requirement for Americans to buy insurance is constitutional.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will consider whether a lower court was correct in striking down the requirement. But they will not be the final arbiter in a fight that is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

May 5, 2011

House Republicans want to help states on jobless debt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leading Republicans in the House of Representatives on Thursday introduced a bill that would allow states to pay down debts for unemployment benefits with federal funds set aside for emergency aid.

The legislation, introduced by the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp, along with Kentucky’s Geoff Davis and North Dakota’s Rick Berg, would rely on $31 billion designated for extended unemployment benefits.

May 4, 2011

UBS settles with U.S. in muni bond case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – UBS AG acknowledged that its former employees in its municipal bond reinvestment desk broke the law, and agreed to pay $160 million to federal and state agencies, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

UBS settled with the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Internal Revenue Service and 25 state attorneys general.

Apr 29, 2011

Bring BABs back and cap tax-exempts: think tank

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bringing back Build America Bonds (BABs) would entice investors into the $2.9 trillion U.S. municipal bond market and promote infrastructure investment, the Center for American Progress said on Friday.

But at the same time, the left-leaning think tank called for a cap on the issuance of the tax-exempt debt.

Apr 26, 2011

U.S. states face growing pension gaps

WASHINGTON, April 26 (Reuters) – U.S. states are short
$1.26 trillion in paying for public employee pensions and other
retirement benefits, a gap that grew 26 percent in one year and
will take many more years to wipe out, according to a report
released on Tuesday.

A total of 31 states had pensions that were underfunded in
fiscal 2009, the latest year for which data is available, up
from 22 states a year earlier, the Pew Center on the States
reported.

Apr 21, 2011

Analysis: Pension funds try to get rates right

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A testy exchange between a congressman and a governor at a U.S. congressional hearing last week highlighted an issue few Americans ever ponder: rates of return on public pension investments.

“If somebody told me they expected to get an 8 to 8.5 percent return I’d say they were probably smoking those maple leaves,” Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah told Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, which is renowned for its maple trees.

Apr 21, 2011

Public pension fund assets nearly $3 trillion: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The assets held by state and local government pension funds rose to $2.93 trillion in 2010, a 35 percent increase from their lowest point during the financial crisis, two national associations said on Thursday.

“Rising capital markets, strong long-term investment returns, and actions by many states to preserve or restore the affordability and sustainability of their pension plans have all played a role,” said the National Association of State Retirement Administrators and National Council on Teacher Retirement in a special brief on the funds’ improving health.