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  #261  
Old 07-22-2014, 03:04 PM
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PENNSYLVANIA

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/ind...a#incart_river

Quote:
Moody's Investors Service announced Monday it has downgraded Pennsylvania's bond rating, citing the reliance of the state's recently approved budget on one-time revenue sources and the state's failure to deal with its pension crisis.

Moody's, in a news release, said it has downgraded the Commonwealth's outstanding $11.1 billion general obligation bonds to Aa3 from Aa2. It also has downgraded the ratings assigned to $2 billion of appropriation-backed bonds by one notch.

It labeled the overall outlook for Pennsylvania as "stable."

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  #262  
Old 08-15-2014, 06:36 PM
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SAN BERNADINO, CALIFORNIA

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/...0GE2F520140814

Quote:
(Reuters) - San Bernardino, California, has begun face-to-face talks with some of its biggest creditors - bondholders and insurers - for the first time, two years after filing for bankruptcy in a case that has slowed to a crawl in the past 12 months.

Paul Glassman, an attorney representing the city, said in a court hearing on Thursday that an all-day mediation session was held on Aug. 5 with Ambac Assurance Corp, the insurer of $50 million of pension obligation bonds issued to the city in 2005.

Ambac was also negotiating on behalf of Erste Europäische Pfandbrief-und Kommunalkreditbank AG, the holder of the bonds, and Wells Fargo Bank, the bond trustee and the flagship bank of Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N). Details of the negotiations are subject to a judicial gag order.

Glassman said the city will begin talks soon with another creditor, bond insurer National Public Finance Guarantee Corp, a unit of MBIA Inc (MBI.N).

San Bernardino, a city of 205,000 people located 65 miles east of Los Angeles, filed for bankruptcy in August 2012 with a budget deficit of $45 million.

.....
San Bernardino has also reached a "tentative" deal with the police union - the city's biggest - after months of closed-door negotiations, Glassman said. He added that the deal represented "significant progress" in the city's attempt to issue a bankruptcy exit plan, known as a plan of adjustment.

In June, the city reached a deal with its biggest creditor, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers).

San Bernardino has imposed significant cuts in pay and other benefits on its police and firefighters.

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  #263  
Old 09-08-2014, 07:33 AM
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NEW JERSEY

http://www.northjersey.com/news/fitc...alls-1.1082031

Quote:
New Jersey’s credit rating has been cut in Wall Street’s first official reaction to the move by Governor Christie to scale back legally mandated payments to New Jersey’s pension fund, a move he made to balance the state budget.

Fitch Ratings announced Friday afternoon that it lowered the state’s credit rating one step to A, citing a “repudiation” of the pledged pension payments.

The downgrade announcement also cited “the absence of long-term, fiscally sustainable solutions” to close recent budget gaps, “overly optimistic revenue forecasts” and a state economy that “continues to lag that of the nation.”

The ratings action comes as public employee unions are challenging the pension payment reductions — which total $2.4 billion over two fiscal years — in state Superior Court. It also puts New Jersey’s credit rating in a tie with California’s, and above only Illinois among U.S. states.

The downgrade is the second this year from Fitch, which had already lowered the credit rating to A+ after the Christie administration announced in April that tax collections had fallen $807 million short of projections.

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/fitc....dypbiobo.dpuf
http://burypensions.wordpress.com/20...ngraded-again/

Quote:
New Jersey’s bond rating have been downgraded seven times during the Christie administration with ratings agencies citing retirement benefit costs each time:
2/9/11 S&P Downgrade: AA- from AA
4/27/11 Moody’s Downgrade: AA3 from AA2
8/18/11 Fitch Downgrade: AA- from AA
4/9/14 S&P Downgrade: A- from AA-
5/1/14 Fitch Downgrade: A+ from AA-
5/14/14 Moodys Downgrade: A1 from AA3
9/5/14 Fitch Downgrade: A from A+
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  #264  
Old 09-23-2014, 11:58 AM
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http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-m...bby-1411426709

Quote:
The Muni Bond Lobby
Schumer leans on the feds to favor municipal debt in bank liquidity rules.
What happens if states and cities with rising pension obligations have trouble finding investors for their bonds? The local politicos needn't worry because Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) is leaning on federal regulators to ease their fiscal pain.

Mr. Schumer has launched his campaign in response to a new federal rule that does not force big banks to lend to municipalities. Regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Treasury recently decided not to include state and muni debt in the category of "high quality liquid assets" that banks must hold in case of emergency.

The point of this new liquidity rule is to make sure that in times of market stress big banks have on hand instruments they can easily convert into cash to meet their obligations. In the past banks generally haven't considered muni paper to be of the highest quality, and with good reason. The regulators note that many muni issues simply do not enjoy deep and liquid trading markets and "financial data from municipal issuers can be inconsistent and vary in timing."

.....
But suddenly Mr. Schumer sees "disastrous side effects" if regulators don't rewrite their new liquidity rule, which he claims "threatens to stifle the job growth and investment in infrastructure that is critical to sustaining our economic recovery." A press release from Mr. Schumer's office further warns that the new rule "could slow or halt critical infrastructure projects in major cities across the U.S."

.....
We'd like to praise regulators for standing fast against politicians like Mr. Schumer who seek the political allocation of capital. But Fed Governor Dan Tarullo is already signalling that regulators might bend their rule for some state and local politicians whose debt issues currently enjoy liquid markets.

That means this could become a lobbying contest, and you can bet that well-run small cities won't be the winners. A leading candidate to get government's seal of approval is none other than Mr. Schumer's New York City, which is a relatively respected issuer thanks to the decisions of previous management.

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  #265  
Old 10-31-2014, 11:16 AM
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I guess it will have to be some other muni (San Bernadino?) to fight Calpers

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA

http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/article3474893.html
Quote:
Government pensions in California remain untouchable, at least for now, after a bankruptcy judge approved Stockton’s plan to repay its creditors Thursday without reducing the city’s pension obligations.

In a major victory for CalPERS and public employees, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein approved Stockton’s reorganization plan over the objections of a disgruntled investment firm, Franklin Templeton, which wanted more money at the expense of the city’s pension benefits. “This plan, I’m persuaded, is about the best that can be done,” Klein told a packed courtroom in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento.

Klein’s ruling came one month after he decided that Stockton could reduce its payments to CalPERS if it wanted to. He said breaking contracts, including the relationship between Stockton and the big pension fund, is the essence of bankruptcy. But on Thursday he confirmed Stockton’s blueprint for exiting bankruptcy even though it keeps pensions intact.

The Stockton case has loomed as a major test of the sanctity of public pensions at a time of rising costs to governments. Klein’s Oct. 1 decision sent major reverberations through the financial world, government circles and public employee unions. Klein acknowledged Thursday that the earlier ruling “undermined” what had been an ironclad assumption: that government pensions are safe and sound, no matter what.

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Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/business/...#storylink=cpy
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  #266  
Old 11-26-2014, 10:11 AM
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NEW JERSEY

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf...bond_sale.html

Quote:
TRENTON — In an indication that Wall Street continues to worry about New Jersey’s fiscal health, Fitch Ratings' primary analyst has once again offered a “negative” rating outlook for the state’s credit rating, and has assigned its second-lowest “investment grade” credit rating to the Garden State’s planned offering of some $525 million in bonds next week.

The agency’s negative rating outlook indicates that if current financial trends continue, New Jersey’s credit rating is likely to move downward — for an eighth time — sometime over the next one- to two-years.

“New Jersey faces an enormous amount of challenges,” said Marcy Block, senior director of Fitch Ratings, “A budget severely out of balance. One of their larger revenue sources – personal income tax – did not come in as projected. And the state has sizable liabilities, including an unfunded pension.”

In September, New Jersey disclosed that the budget shortfall for the last fiscal year was nearly $275 million higher than the $1.3 billion the administration had estimated at the end of June. In the spring, Gov. Chris Christie overshot the amount of money he thought would arrive from the state income tax, contributing to a $807 million budget shortfall. Also, New Jersey's public worker retirement plan is groaning under $90 billion in liabilities from unfunded pension and health benefits that threaten to decimate future state budgets.
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  #267  
Old 11-27-2014, 07:01 AM
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http://www.bloombergbriefs.com/conte...4_finaldoc.pdf

Quote:
INTRO

An old-media kind of guy, I still keep file folders of stories, blog entries, clippings, messages and reports printed out and more or less sorted. Back in early 2009, I started a file labeled “Hysteria’’ to hold the physical evidence of what I thought the most unusual and even outlandish claims being leveled against an asset class I have spent 33 years writing about — municipal bonds.

Over the next couple of years, the file swelled. I started another. And another. I didn’t even include Meredith Whitney. She got an entire file of her own. I collected so much material that I decided to use it as a presentation to the Bond Attorneys Winter Workshop one year. Even then I only got to use the high-points, or low points, if you prefer, entering each exhibit into evidence. I considered this clever.

“Show me a revenue stream and I’ll show you a bond issue,” is an old banker’s axiom. The writer’s equivalent is probably, “Show me a box of research and I’ll show you a book.”

Or, in this case, a special supplement. And so here we are.
Ooh, maybe I should write a book on public pensions.

one tidbit from this non-book supplement on munis

page 28
Quote:
Fourth: Municipalities — that is, those who are legally allowed to (not all states allow it) — will do all they can to avoid filing for Chapter 9, which by design is onerous, extremely expensive and, yes, carries a stigma. The corollary to this observation is that when they do file, the corporate attorneys and advisers involved will target bondholders as easy prey. Even the conservatives in Orange County for a very brief period early in the county’s bankruptcy in 1995 talked of “repudiating’’ certain bonds sold only the year before. One of Detroit emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr’s very first gambits was to declare that general obligation bondholders were unsecured and entitled to only cents on the dollar.
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  #268  
Old 11-28-2014, 09:26 AM
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http://online.barrons.com/articles/s...und-1416633606

Quote:
U.S. states represent one of the most secure areas of the global bond market, typically benefiting from low debt levels relative to the size of their economies, and the ability to cut spending and raise taxes during tough times.

Even when hefty pension obligations and unfunded employee health-care liabilities are taken into account, state credit quality generally is strong. The $518 billion of state general-obligation bonds and other state-supported debt are probably the best slice of the $3.7 trillion municipal-bond market. General-obligation bonds are backed by the issuer’s full faith and credit.

.....
Reflecting all of this, both Moody’s Investors Service and rival Standard & Poor’s give a triple-A rating to 15 states. Only Illinois and New Jersey have a Moody’s rating below double-A. In contrast, just three U.S. companies, ExxonMobil (ticker: XOM), Microsoft (MSFT), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) have triple-A ratings from both rating agencies. Even the U.S. government lost its triple-A rating from S&P in a controversial 2011 action, and mighty Apple (AAPL), with its $120 billion of net cash and $40 billion of annual income, merits only a double-A1 rating from Moody’s and a AA+ from S&P, a notch below triple-A.

“While most state credits are stable and have improved in the past three years, a few have struggled. Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut aren’t fully funding their pension obligations, have thin financial reserves, are structurally imbalanced, and are using one-time revenue sources to balance budgets,” says Jim Evans, a portfolio manager at Eaton Vance, an investment manager with a specialty in municipal bonds.

Atop the list are North Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah, which boast modest liabilities, ample cash, and strong economies.

.....
PENSION AND HEALTH-CARE liabilities matter because they dwarf outstanding state debt and aren’t easily extinguished, thanks to legal protections. Eaton Vance puts unfunded state pension and health-care costs nationwide at $1.6 trillion, or three times the amount of state debt. The firm estimates health-care liabilities because states don’t provide much information on which portion is their responsibility and which portion is the obligation of local governments. Eaton Vance assigns the full health-care burden to the state, meaning the liability could be overstated. Whether overstated or not, unfunded postretirement employee health-care liabilities are a major problem for state and local governments. In the Detroit bankruptcy, one of the city’s largest obligations was unfunded health-care costs.

Other factors that figure in Eaton Vance’s proprietary analysis include the funding status of state pension plans and whether states are making the actuarially mandated contribution to their pension fund each year.

Some states, such as New York, have made ample annual contributions, while others, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, have not. To balance their budgets, these states have skimped on their pension contributions in recent years, but that simply defers the ultimate payment and has contributed to their weakening credit quality.

To evaluate debt-payment ability, Eaton Vance incorporates the asset side of states’ balance sheets by looking at cash and investment levels. It also focuses on several economic indicators, including the jobless rate, the state’s gross-domestic-product growth, wealth, tax burden, and population gains. The firm assigns different weights to each of the measures to come up with an overall state ranking.

“To get a true measure of state rating, you have to look at liquidity reserves and the health of the state economy and the state’s ability to raise taxes,” says Bill Delahunty, director of municipal research at Eaton Vance.

.....
PERSISTENT PENSION underfunding in the administration of Gov. Chris Christie and his predecessors is plaguing New Jersey, which has one of the lowest funding ratios of any state and the worst average annual pension contribution over the past three years, relative to actuarially required levels. The worsened outlook has come despite the pension reforms that Christie pushed through in 2011.

“New Jersey continues to struggle with structural imbalance, and the governor’s decision to reduce pension contributions in fiscal 2014 and 2015 highlights the fact that the state lacks the revenues to comply with its own agreed-on contribution to the pension system,” S&P wrote in explaining its downgrade of New Jersey general-obligation paper to A from A+ in September. The rating agency added that the state is closing its budget gap by employing “one-time measures, such as legal settlements, debt restructurings, and pension-payment deferrals.”

Big, scheduled, annual increases in the New Jersey pension contributions, to $4.8 billion in fiscal 2018 from $2.25 billion in the current year, threaten to crowd out other state expenditures. And with the nation’s second-highest combined state and local tax burden behind New York, the Garden State has little room to hike taxes.

Pennsylvania, ranked No. 47, has been hurt by a weak economy and a growing pension liability. These factored into a Moody’s downgrade in July, when the state’s credit rating fell to Aa3 from Aa2. Tax-revenue growth has been sluggish since the recession, despite the state’s energy boom tied to hydraulic fracturing in the vast Marcellus shale deposit.

.....
NEW YORK is a bright spot in the fiscally challenged Northeast, thanks to the strength of the New York City economy, spending restraint, and conservative financial management, including strong pension funding. The state’s unfunded pension liability is just over half of smaller Connecticut’s. The Empire State continues to rely too heavily, however, on the superwealthy, including hedge fund managers and private-equity chieftains, who pay a large chunk of the state’s income taxes. And the volatile income tax kicks in 60% of state revenue, about twice the national average.

.....
PUERTO RICO REMAINS in a class by itself, with far higher yields than those of any state and a poor economic and financial situation. The commonwealth’s benchmark 8% bond due in 2035 that was sold in a $3.5 billion deal in March now trades at 87 cents on the dollar for a 9.4% yield. That’s equivalent to a 15% on a fully taxable bond for someone in the top federal tax bracket. Few dollar-denominated bonds from any country yield so much, even before the tax benefit.

The issue for investors is whether that yield compensates for the risk, especially after Puerto Rico enacted legislation that is expected to lead to the restructuring of certain public utilities, including the island’s electric and highway authorities. Reflecting this, the long-term debt of the public authorities trades around 50 cents on the dollar. The commonwealth’s strategy is to wall off its GO debt and tax-supported Cofina bonds—the name comes from the Spanish words for Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp.—from the troubled authorities.

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  #269  
Old 12-02-2014, 05:27 PM
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VALLEJO, CALIFORNIA

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/201...ut-bankruptcy/

Quote:
What happens when a bankrupt city does not cut its largest debt, pensions, is getting its first test in Vallejo, which has higher average pensions and higher CalPERS rates than the two larger cities still in bankruptcy, Stockton and San Bernardino.

Vallejo was the forerunner, choosing not to try to cut pensions before exiting a 3 ½-year bankruptcy three years ago. City council members said later CalPERS had threatened a long and costly legal battle.

.....
Vallejo may be a good post-bankruptcy test not only because it was first in and first out, but also because of its high pension costs. Here are some comparisons of the three cities from several sources.
Retirees of Vallejo, population 117,000, have higher average pensions than the retirees of the two larger cities, San Bernardino 214,000 and Stockton 300,000. One reason: Union bargaining was based on pay in the high-cost San Francisco Bay Area.
The latest CalPERS valuation reports show police and firefighters retired less than five years have an average pension of $95,127 in Vallejo, compared to $85,501 in Stockton and $78,673 in San Bernardino.
The average pension and benefit amount for retirees with 30 plus years of service in Vallejo is $83,938 in Vallejo, $66,286 in Stockton and $63,418 in San Bernardino, according to a database of government pay and pensions, TansparentCalifornia.com.
Of the individual pensions listed by name in the database, 13 percent (87) of Vallejo retirees have an annual pension of $100,000 or more, compared to 7.4 percent (130) of Stockton retirees and 5.9 percent (83) of San Bernardino retirees.
The rate that Vallejo pays CalPERS is significantly higher than the rates paid by the other two bankrupt cities. The Vallejo safety rate (police and firefighter), 57.6 percent of pay next fiscal year, is projected by CalPERS to reach 72 percent of pay in 2021.
Last week a Moody’s report said the San Bernardino no-cut pact with the California Public Employees Retirement System makes it more likely that the city will cut bond debt and retiree health care, following the Vallejo and Stockton pattern.

.....
The Vallejo budget is complicated by separate accounting for a one-cent sales tax approved by voters in November 2011 for 10 years. Measure B was expected to yield about $10 million each year.
In a five-year forecast in the current Vallejo budget (p. 20) excluding Measure B, the annual CalPERS payment, 17.6 percent of the general fund ($13.8 million of $78.5 million), is expected to grow to 21.8 percent by 2019-20 ($17.4 million of $80 million).
.....
In a general fund update for the city council last month, the Vallejo city manager, Daniel Keen, listed a number of “nice milestones,” beginning with the first structurally balanced city budget in 10 years.
The city received its first unqualified audit in over seven years, re-entered the debt market with an $18 million water bond, and debt issued in 1999 was recently upgraded from “CCC+” to “BB-” with a stable outlook.
Through the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1, tax revenue is $2 million above projections. But $2.5 million in expected savings from unfilled positions dropped to $1 million due to a “very good job” hiring police and firefighters.
“In our five-year projections we had expected that number to come down,” Keen said. “It’s just coming down a lot sooner than we thought it would.”
Vallejo made deep cuts in police and firefighters and closed several fire stations. The current budget called for hiring 18 police officers, two dispatchers, 10 police cadets, 10 firefighters and one deputy fire chief.
A budget chart (p. 165) shows the average Vallejo police salary, $111,016, is more than matched by pension, health care, workers compensation and other expenses that push the total cost for the average officer to $227,221. (See chart below)
The city’s first structurally balanced budget in a decade may be temporary. The five-year forecast expects a general fund deficit to reopen again next fiscal year and grow to $3 million by 2019-20.
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  #270  
Old 12-15-2014, 03:30 PM
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http://www.forbes.com/sites/investor...pr-muni-bonds/

Quote:
If you feel anywhere as angry as I do about the mile high pension promises given to public employees—without a snowball’s chance of ever being paid—then do something. The current worst offenders are Illinois, Chicago and New Jersey.

Add to this, that courts time and again favor the claims of pensioners over the legal rights of municipal bondholders. Now we have the worst case scenario that few in Muniland ever anticipated. This especially goes for Detroit’s General Obligation bonds.

So the system has run amok. Detroit General Obligation bondholders received only 74 cents on the dollar in bankruptcy reparations. Limited GO bondholders recovered even less from the city’s bankruptcy—just 34 cents on the dollar.

I believe that Detroit will become the template for future municipal bankruptcies and restructurings. The call to action for these floundering entities will be, “Screw the bondholders.”

It is a relatively easy in concept to stop this abuse of investors—just refuse to purchase these bond issues. After all, the yields on Illinois, Chicago, Puerto Rico and New Jersey municipal bonds don’t even reflect the obscene risk they pose to investors.

.....
Adapt a new muni investment strategy: Own good quality revenue bonds instead of General Obligation bonds. Accept only issues like large airport revenue bonds, senior liens only. Buy rapid transit system bonds in cities whose population is dependent on that transportation system. San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is one example. Buy Texas Permanent School Fund bonds. These bonds have a pristine guarantee. Buy water and sewer bonds in upscale areas whose foreclosures barely exist and in areas not suffering from drought.

There’s a big universe in the $3.7 trillion municipal bond space. Surely you can find any number of bonds that satisfy your investment needs. So, be a refusenick when it comes to owning Illinois, Chicago, Puerto Rico, and New Jersey municipal bonds.
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