Policing 2,611,582 credit ratings

November 16, 2012

The SEC is out with its second annual examination of “Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations,” otherwise known as credit rating agencies. A little known 2006 law, the Credit Rating Agency Reform Act, gave broad authority to the SEC to inspect raters as if they were broker dealers, and is what empowers the SEC to annually inspect raters. According to the law, raters must:

Who will discipline the Long Island Power Authority?

November 14, 2012

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) has done a dismal job of restoring power for its customers after Hurricane Sandy. According to the New York Times, “[t]he bungling of the storm has called into question the Authority’s very future.”

Mapping the saga of San Bernardino

November 14, 2012

Reuter’s reporters Tim Reid, Cezary Podkul and Ryan McNeill wrote a great analysis of the fiscal and political troubles of bankrupt San Bernardino, California. They zeroed in on the high cost of wages and pension benefits for fire and police safety workers:

Looking for reconstruction funding after Sandy

November 12, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo is preparing to ask for about $30 billion from the federal government ahead of President Obama’s trip to New York this week. These funds would go toward disaster relief for New York City and other affected areas of the state. Cuomo also wants to rustle up some federal funding to strengthen the region’s infrastructure, The New York Times writes:

Senator Wicker, meet Senator Warren

November 9, 2012

This week, former Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren rode to her election night victory in Massachusetts with an eight point margin as the people’s senator. Now, as she moves closer to her swearing-in at the Old Senate Chamber in early January, the political wags are speculating whether she will be given a seat on the Senate Banking Committee. Warren herself has said that she is in discussion with Senate leadership about her committee assignments, according to Reuters:

Time to ride the muniland tax exemption pony

November 9, 2012

Congratulations President Obama: Now here is your muniland checklist

November 8, 2012

President Obama deserves a few mornings to sleep in, and then it is time to get back to work. Upcoming federal tax and deficit reform have been grabbing headlines, but there are other D.C. policy reforms that could have a major effect on states and cities. These need to be on the president and Congress’ 2013 checklist.

The cost of the war on drugs

November 6, 2012

Memo to our new president: Federal, state and local governments face increasing challenges as they look for more revenue and try to reduce costs. Reducing public employee headcounts and postponing capital projects have been good ways to reduce budgets, but bolder approaches are needed.

Will Congress privatize federal flood insurance?

November 5, 2012

This summer, as part of the Federal Transportation Act, Congress made legislative changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program because it had borrowed $17 billion from the U.S. Treasury to pay off claims for flood damage from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, and it was deeply insolvent. The editorial board of the Washington Post wrote:

Sandy as an external shock

November 5, 2012

Estimates for the economic damage resulting from Superstorm Sandy are circulating from $15 to $50 billion in damage. No formal assessments have been completed yet, and it’s likely that these are “repair” estimates that reflect the cost of cleaning up and repairing infrastructure back to its former state. A repair bill is likely to be much lower than the cost of hardening and improving vital transport, energy and communication systems to withstand more storms like Sandy or worse. After Hurricane Katrina, architect Frederic Schwartz wrote: