Stock Market Helps State Pension Debt Hit 10-Year Low, But Crisis Still Looms Large

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/09/23/stock-market-helps-state-pension-debt-hit-10-year-low-but-crisis-still-looms-large/

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After state pension debt grew to more than $1.4 trillion last year, two new reports estimate that gap between the total amount states have promised to retirees and what they’ve actually set aside in their pension investment funds will shrink dramatically. A recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts says the gap could dip below $1 trillion this year. And a report released today by the Equable Institute estimates that 2021 returns will shrink state pension debt to $1.08 trillion.

The gains in the stock market played a big role. Equable’s report calculates that preliminary 2021 investment returns averaged an astounding 20.7% return. That’s nearly triple the average assumed rate of return in any given year. Those gains will boost the average pension plan to about 80% funded, the highest funding ratio since 2008.

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 23 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

California Pensions Improve Slightly, Still Deep in the Red

Link: https://www.theepochtimes.com/california-pensions-improve-slightly-still-deep-in-the-red_4003251.html

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The 80 percent mark long has been considered the minimum threshold for a pension fund. However, that’s actually still too low. An Issue Brief by the American Academy of Actuaries called it, “The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth” (pdf).

It said, “An 80 percent funded ratio often has been cited in recent years as a basis for whether a pension plan is financially or ‘actuarially’ sound. Left unchallenged, this misinformation can gain undue credibility with the observer, who may accept and in turn rely on it as fact, thereby establishing a mythic standard. … Pension plans should have a strategy in place to attain or maintain a funded status of 100 percent or greater over a reasonable period of time.”

Author(s): John Seiler

Publication Date: 19 Sept 2021

Publication Site: The Epoch Times

Population Growth Sputters in Midwestern, Eastern States

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2021/07/27/population-growth-sputters-in-midwestern-eastern-states

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Apart from states with declines—West Virginia, Mississippi, and Illinois—the slowest population growth rates were recorded in Connecticut (0.09%); Michigan (0.19%); and Ohio, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania (0.23% each).

States experiencing their slowest decade of growth ever were Illinois, Connecticut, and six others: Missouri (0.27%), Wisconsin (0.36%), California (0.60%), Hawaii (0.68%), Arizona (1.13%), and Florida (1.37%).

After Utah, Idaho, and Texas, the next fastest-growing states over the past decade were North Dakota (1.48%), Nevada (1.40%), Colorado (1.39%), and Washington and Florida (both 1.37%).

Growth was faster in the 2010s than in the 2000s in only 12 states: Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.

Author(s): Barb Rosewicz, Melissa Maynard, Alexandre Fall

Publication Date: 27 July 2021

Publication Site: Pew

Early Warning Systems Can Help States Identify Signs of Fiscal Distress

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2021/03/04/early-warning-systems-can-help-states-identify-signs-of-fiscal-distress?utm_campaign=2021-03-09+Squeeze+map&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Pew

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In a white paper for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Eric Scorsone and Natalie Pruett of the Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Center for Local Government Finance & Policy assessed local government early warning systems through case studies in Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Each of these states applies various financial ratios—an approach known as ratio analysis—and other indicators to identify signs of local fiscal distress. Ratio analysis uses fractions that capture financial or economic activity within a locality—such as total expenditures over total revenues—to measure solvency, the ability to pay debts and liabilities over the short or long term. Ultimately, the authors determined that there isn’t one optimal system and instead offer several recommendations for states to build or improve their early warning systems.

The authors present detailed descriptions of the four states’ systems and analyze trade-offs and implications of the indicators employed to measure different types of solvency. They offer a variety of recommendations for states to consider, including use of indicators for four types of solvency:

Author(s): Jeff Chapman

Publication Date: 4 March 2021

Publication Site: Pew Trusts

As Federal Aid Stalled, State And Local Governments Issued Bonds To Pay Current Bills

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/01/30/as-congress-stalled-on-a-relief-package-governments-relied-on-borrowing-to-pay-the-bills/?

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Between August and mid-December of 2020, at least one-quarter of large bond issuances in the municipal market involved some form of deficit financing, according to an analysis by Municipal Market Analytics (MMA). The firm analyzed 442 municipal bond issuances that totaled at least $100 million.

MMA’s Matt Fabian and Lisa Washburn added that their tally was conservative and that as many as half of those 442 issuances may have involved deficit financing because the ultimate use of the money wasn’t always clear.

“These are not typical uses of the municipal bond market, where an overwhelming majority of financing is for long-term infrastructure projects,” they told the Pew Charitable Trusts. “But last year, with state and local governments seeking as much as possible to avoid cutting spending, raising taxes, or postponing pension payments, they shifted their emphasis to short-term and temporary solutions. As the pandemic continued and federal stimulus money dried up, they increasingly took on debt for budgetary help.”

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 30 January 2021

Publication Site: Forbes