New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has learned that talking about state insolvency may have a cost.
About 20 minutes after Christie, 48, told a town-hall meeting in Paramus today that health-care costs “will bankrupt” the state, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority cut its tax-exempt school-related bond offering by more than half to $712.3 million.
“It doesn’t help to try and sell a $1 billion deal on the same day the governor is talking about the state going bankrupt due to healthcare costs,” said Mike Pietronico, who oversees $360 million as chief executive officer of Miller Tabak Asset Management in New York.
Healthcare spending “will bankrupt” the state unless it requires workers to pay more for medical coverage, Christie said. New Jersey will spend $4.3 billion on health insurance this year, and that cost will rise 40 percent within four years, Christie, a first-term Republican, said at the town-hall meeting.
“Mr. Christie made a rookie mistake,” Pietronico said. “The market is very sensitive to the word ‘bankrupt.’”
The authority also cut its taxable offering 51 percent to $119.9 million, with four-year bonds priced to yield 125 basis points, or 1.25 percentage points, above a U.S. Treasury due in December 2015, the person said. The issue included $211.3 million in floating-rate notes.
The governor’s office referred inquiries to the Treasury Department.
‘Unwise and Imprudent’
“Given market conditions, it would have been unwise and imprudent to put the substantial benefits achieved with this sale at risk by trying to sell more bonds at higher rates,” Andrew Pratt, a spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, said in an e-mail.
The state priced securities maturing in September 2020 to yield 4.64 percent, according to a person with direct knowledge of the sale. That’s 148 basis points above top-rated nine-year debt, according to a Bloomberg Valuation index.
When New Jersey priced its last series of school construction bonds, a $716.3 million deal in April, the so- called spread of tax-exempt bonds maturing in nine years was 91 basis points more than top-rated tax-exempts of the same maturity, the BVAL index shows.
“The state will return to the market to obtain further savings and risk reduction if and when market conditions turn favorable to taxpayers,” Pratt said.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that the offering was slashed because of low demand.
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