Congress Considers Axing Private Activity Bonds
BY BUCK LUCAS | POSTED NOV. 20
Federal tax reform is here and just in time for the holidays! In addition to a host of other tax changes, the House Tax Cuts and Jobs Act acted to eliminate private activity bonds, or PABs, and advanced refundings, while the Senate proposal saves PABs and would eliminate advanced refundings. Each financing tool grants local governments greater financial flexibility, and to rein in these tools would likely increase local costs to issue, or re-finance debt.
To illustrate, the Council of Development Finance Agencies reports, “the cost of borrowing for state and local governments [may] increase by as much as 25-35%.”
The fate of PABs rests on the reconciliation process between the House and Senate proposals. Such uncertainty is an ill omen for a financing mechanism that generated more than $9 billion in tax-exempt activity since 2010. Projects that seek to finance higher-education facilities, economic development, and affordable housing may have to turn elsewhere. Read more.
Partnership with Auditor Saves Local Government Money
Local governments have one less financial report to submit to the state. The Washington State Department of Commerce has stopped sending out its annual survey on general-obligation debt — which we called the GO survey.
Instead, we have partnered with the State Auditor’s Office to obtain this data from counties, cities, and most special districts. This will save local governments staff time and eliminate inconsistencies in data reporting.
State statute requires local governments to report information annually about their outstanding general-obligation debt to the Bond Users Clearinghouse. This data is used to calculate each jurisdiction’s debt usage relative to its statutory debt capacity.
Our annual GO Report itemizes general-obligation debt by jurisdiction.
Our Other Programs
Submitting Debt Data
Chapter 39.44 RCW requires all state and local governments or their agents to submit a Bond 101 report on all debt issues within 20 days of issuance. Local governments are also required to report annually on their outstanding general-obligation debt.
Calculating Local Debt Capacity: How and Why?
Regardless of revenues, history, and ratings, the state limits the borrowing power of even the most credit-worthy local governments.
Those limitations, both constitutional and statutory, are based on a percentage of the assessed valuation of the taxable properties within each jurisdiction.
In our Local Debt Limitations Primer, we walk you through how and why local debt capacity is calculated….
Five Ways to Learn More About Public Debt
The Bond Users Clearinghouse collects, analyzes, and publishes information on all bonds issued in the state, and on local government outstanding general-obligation debt. This information, which is available free of charge, is provided through five services:
1. The annual Public Debt Report, which itemizes all state and local government bond issuances.
2. The annual GO Report, which lists local government general-obligation debt and use of statutory debt capacity.
3. Monthly spreadsheets of all state and local bond data reported to the Clearinghouse.
4. News and information about public debt, including analysis of our data and background on emerging issues.
5. A public debt archives, which is an online database of bond issuances that allows you to search for bond issuances using several criteria. You can also download official bond documents.
Note that we can also conduct customized searches, make copies of documents from our archives, or point you in the direction of additional resources.