05.31.2010 0

Too Hot Not to Note: America’s Municipal Debt Racket

  • On: 06/14/2010 21:30:23
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility
  • ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured oped from the Wall Street Journal, the Manhattan Institute’s Steven Malanga exposes the fiscal mismanagement of municipal debt by state and local authorities:

    America’s Municipal Debt Racket


    New Jersey officials recently celebrated the selection of the new stadium in the Meadowlands sports complex as the site of the 2014 Super Bowl. Absent from the festivities was any sense of the burden the complex has become for taxpayers.

    Nearly 40 years ago the Garden State borrowed $302 million to begin constructing the Meadowlands. The goal was to pay off the bonds in 25 years. Although the project initially went according to plan, politicians couldn’t resist continually refinancing the bonds, siphoning revenues from the complex into the state budget, and using the good credit rating of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition authority to borrow for other, unsuccessful building schemes.

    Today, the authority that runs the Meadowlands is in hock for $830 million, which it can’t pay back. The state, facing its own cavernous budget deficits, has had to assume interest payments—about $100 million this year on bonds that still stretch for decades.

    This tale of woe has become familiar in the world of municipal finance. Governments have loaded up on debt, stretched out repayment times, and used slick maneuvers to avoid constitutional borrowing limits. While the country’s economic troubles have helped expose some of these practices, a sharp decline in tax revenues has prompted more abuse as politicians use long-term debt to kick short-term fiscal problems down the road.

    Get full story here from the Wall Street Journal.

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