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Monday, February 23, 2009

Cut up those credit cards... pretty soon... maybe... sort of...

This is an interesting one. As reported here last week, the State of Oregon is going for the gusto in borrowing money this month -- slapping $726 million of new debt onto its balance sheet in less than 30 days, at a time when interest rates for government borrowers are anything but cheap.

And yet right smack dab in the middle of this binge comes this cautionary press release from newly minted State Treasurer Ben Westlund. Passing along the bad news from an outfit called the state Debt Policy Advisory Commission, Westlund reports that the state's ability to borrow money is shrinking, and that the state needs to be extremely cautious in racking up new liabilities:

Members of the commission also urge lawmakers to be cautious about new debt because of uncertainty about the long-term state fiscal picture. Further declines in general fund and Lottery revenue forecasts will reduce future debt capacity – and commission members emphasize that they do not recommend that legislators authorize bonds all the way to the limit.

Doing so could jeopardize Oregon’s credit rating, which helps to determine the interest rates at which Oregon can sell bonds. That rating now stands at AA/Aa2/AA, by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service, and Fitch Investors Service, respectively.

The commission also has recommended more education of policymakers and the public the tradeoffs of public debt, which can be a powerful tool to help aid economic development – but also comes with a long-term cost.

How they can square this wisdom with the current program of going to the well for three quarters of a billion in a single month is really beyond me. Maybe they're pulling our leg.

Comments (3)

I don't think they have much choice.

They had a $1B surplus in 2007 and promptly increased the budget by 20% and blew through that. They do not want to cut any programs besides schools and police and the public employee union is not going to do give-backs and Ted doesn't have the guts to ask. So now what?

Just another day with Ted the Genius and his accomplices at the Legislature.

In case you haven't noticed, our idiot Governor is attempting to hold back using the State "Rainy Day Fund" to plug any holes in the 2008-2009 State Budget. What he doesn't want you to know is that approximately 25% of those "emergency funds" were invested in other than short term investments and are not especially liquid. You can thank the "bright lights" at the Oregon Investment Council for that bit of "smart" thinking.

Jack, can you explain why the simple point you make in this blog isn't addressed by our media, especially the newspapers? If the State Treasure is strongly saying "be cautious" and giving reasons with backup from a state Commission, then how can our legislature and governor miss the point? Where are the inquisitive minds in the media to call this discrepancy out?

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