Voters Pass at Least $9 Billion of Debt Measures, Led by Texas

Wednesday, 09 Nov 2011 07:01 AM

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Texas residents passed a $6 billion bond measure to pay for water projects, the largest debt authorization before voters around the U.S. in elections yesterday.

At least $9 billion of state and local borrowing won approval, or more than half of the amount in propositions before voters and for which results are known.

Texas residents also authorized $1.9 billion for student loans, according to results posted on the Secretary of State’s website, with 99.9 percent of precincts reporting. Voters in Arkansas passed a $575 million measure to pay for highway repairs, state data show, with 74 of 75 counties tabulated.

About $16.5 billion of debt went before electorates from Virginia to California, proposing financing for water supplies, roads and schools, two-thirds more than in 2009. Odd-year voters typically face fewer questions than in even-numbered years, when candidates for Congress are on the ballot. State agencies and municipalities sought $16.6 billion of bond issues in 2010, the smallest amount for a congressional-election year since 1996.

State and local governments have faced fiscal pressures as revenue trails projections while expenses climb following the longest recession since the 1930s. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, New York, said last month in a report that while state receipts rose for the sixth straight quarter through June, local property taxes declined for the third consecutive three-month period.

Needed Projects

“We do need to take on some of these projects,” Robert Ward, deputy director at the institute, said by telephone before voting results were in. With interest rates near record lows, public officials can make the argument that it’s a good time to borrow and projects can help local economies, Ward said.

Tax-revenue growth in 20 states slowed to the lowest increase in more than a year in the third quarter, with a gain of about 7 percent compared with the same period in 2010, Alec Phillips, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst in Washington, said in a Nov. 7 report.

“State government tax receipts are starting to soften, after several strong quarters,” Phillips said.

In the two most-recent elections before equity markets tumbled to a 12-year low in March 2009, voters considered authorizing $28.7 billion of debt in 2007 and $67 billion in 2008. In the last odd-year election, just $9.8 billion went up for a vote in 2009, as the economy emerged from the recession, which curbed state and local government spending.

Rising Bond Sales

Municipal-debt sales may jump to $310 billion in 2012 from $270 billion this year as borrowers refinance, George Friedlander, senior municipal-bond strategist at Citigroup Inc., said at the Bloomberg State and Municipal Finance Conference in New York last week. The total may reach $350 billion, said Chris Mier, a managing director at Chicago’s Loop Capital Markets LLC.

Issuance will probably fall short of the $408 billion in 2010, when the federally subsidized Build America Bonds program boosted sales, data compiled by Bloomberg indicate.

Following is a list of the largest bond proposals before voters yesterday, according to the latest Ipreo data:

--Editors: Ted Bunker, Mark Tannenbaum.

To contact the reporter on this story: Darrell Preston in Dallas at dpreston@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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