Puerto Rico now faces a $495 million revenue shortfall for the year. Revenues have come in less than projected, and having pared government jobs under the former governor Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico is now resorting to one-off financial maneuvers to fill the budget hole. Moody’s describes the moves in a May 15 report:
A big trip line for states and cities is the host of promises they have made to provide health benefits to retirees (Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB)). Almost universally, cities and states are shouldering these OPEB costs as they come due. Pay as you go, if you will. From a recent Bloomberg presentation:
This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his proposal to create a Financial Restructuring Board to help distressed local governments manage their finances. One of the key features is an alternative binding arbitration process for unions and municipalities to resolve contract issues more rapidly. New York has an unusual employee provision that leaves all previous contract terms in place if municipalities and unions fail to reach an agreement. This provision could prevent old contracts from festering with rich wage increases and swelling employee and pension costs. Governor Cuomo said in a press release:
On Tuesday the SEC is holding a roundtable on credit ratings to address the ongoing question of ratings shopping. Rating shopping is when a bond issuer shops its deal to various credit rating agencies to see who will assign the highest rating. The rating agencies that will assign the best ratings are given the business and the rating fee. Here is how the SEC describes its event:
Lots of ink has been spilled about the famous ex-Major League pitcher Curt Schilling, who convinced the state of Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation to issue $75 million of privately placed “special and limited obligations bonds” to fund a loan to his gaming company. After getting the loan Schilling and Company proceeded relatively quickly to go bankrupt and was unable to repay the loans to EDC, which funded the bonds.
Australia arguably has one of the best individual retirement systems in the world. The government-sponsored system – superannuation – requires mandatory employee and employer contributions to retirement savings. In certain need-based circumstances, the government may also contribute. Australians take funding their retirements seriously, and the government is giving them a powerful new tool to save by moving trading of government bonds onto the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). From the government:
The near-bankrupt city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was charged this week by the Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud. Here is the official language (emphasis mine):
A nine-member working group of banks, underwriters, financial analysts and attorneys released a white paper this week to provide guidance to states and municipalities on disclosure for bank borrowing – a small but significant sector of muniland. Since there is no requirement to disclose bank borrowings by public entities, no one knows what the total size of the sector is. I’ve heard numerous estimates in the $200 to $300 billion range, which would mean the sector is about 5.4 percent to 8 percent of the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market.