Relying on the rich uncle

By Cate Long
July 6, 2011

State and local governments earn their “wages” primarily by collecting taxes, although states get significant “flow-throughs” from the federal government for Medicaid and other social entitlements. Every state varies in where they draw tax revenues from. For example, states that are highly dependent on tourism will see substantial revenues from hotel and sales taxes.

Don’t borrow in the dark, Governor Christie

By Cate Long
June 30, 2011

Every family encounters times when bills are due and they don’t have money. If this happens to a state or local government, they go to the municipal bond market where they can borrow short- or long-term. In the current market they are likely to find a lot of willing lenders.  These lenders will lend at very reasonable interest rates, and the terms of the borrowing will be made public so taxpayers can see what their obligations are.

Has Chris Christie “fixed” the problem?

By Cate Long
June 28, 2011

Has Chris Christie “fixed” the problem?

Joan Gralla of Reuters reports that Governor Chris Christie will be signing the pension and health-benefit reform law today. This is an important step for the health of New Jersey’s pension plans, and Governor Christie should be lauded for his accomplishment.

Greening the city

By Cate Long
June 27, 2011

Greening the city

Many cities took a big step forward for clean air when they adopted buses fueled by natural gas. But there are other important projects that will make getting around easier, quieter and less polluting. New York City is getting ready to take a big step. From American City:

8 weakest U.S. states

By Cate Long
June 24, 2011

According to the credit rating agencies and the bond markets, these are the 8 states with the weakest credit profiles. These states may be weak because their debts are too big, because their economy is flagging or because they haven’t adequately funded the retirement of their employees. If this were a school, these would be the students sitting in the back of the class. Maybe it’s time for these states to do a little more homework.

The declining welfare rolls

By Cate Long
June 24, 2011

The ever-shrinking welfare rolls

Stateline has done some very good reporting on the decline of the welfare rolls. Welfare funding was switched to block grants in 1996, and the funding level has remained the same since then. From Stateline:

Is the taxpayer backstop the root of pension problems?

By Cate Long
June 21, 2011

Public workers have been protesting against the reduction of their benefits in several states. It got a more than a little testy in Wisconsin this winter, which has led to several recall elections for legislators there.

Muni swaps moving higher

By Cate Long
June 21, 2011

Lisa Pollack of Markit in London sent over some interesting charts of U.S. municipal swaps. I put up this one which shows the market perception that risk is increasing again for some states, particularly Illinois and California. It is important to remember that these markets are thinly traded and that there is a large block of muni CDS written on California that is coming to market from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

Muni sweeps: Important deals for CA and NJ

By Cate Long
June 16, 2011

New Jersey municipal employees to pay more for benefits

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the state Democratic leadership have reached agreement on reducing employee benefits:

Chris Christie’s “too big to fails”

By Cate Long
May 24, 2011


Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey who has consistently been championed as a “fiscal conservative,” has a real soft spot for several of his state’s “too big to fail” private projects. These projects include the massive retail/entertainment/sports/dining complex at the Meadowlands and the Revel casino project in Atlantic City. Governor Christie has made his state, which is in perilous financial condition, equity partners in the two projects.