For the second straight year, Fitch has assigned Kentucky a less-than-stellar credit rating.
The global ratings agency has assigned Kentucky an “AA-” rating on revenue bonds that will be offered “through negotiation” on Wednesday.
Fitch Ratings has assigned a AA- credit rating to both $256 million worth of road revenue bonds and on $7.3 billion in “appropriation backed debt” by various Kentucky agencies. IOW: the cost of repairing roads and financing the commonwealth’s debt continues to be higher than it would be if policymakers would get spending under control.
“The Rating Outlook is Negative,” Business Wire reported.
Note: The best rating a bond can have is AAA. This means the bond has virtually no chance of defaulting. AA is one step below AAA. Then comes AA+, AA and AA- with AA+ being the best of the three. “Think of it like a grade in school – you can have B+, B and B-,” DaveManuel.com explains.
The primary reasons for the continued lower-than-ideal credit ratings are varied in detail but rest on two pillars: reduced “financial flexibility” and “demands of long-term liabilities, particularly the increasing needs of the employees retirement system.”
A bit of the Fletch analysis fleshed out:
*Unemployment rate: Kentucky’s 9.1 percent rate remains well above the national 8.5 percent jobless rate.
*Per capita personal income: Kentucky currently ranks “47th among the states.”
*Total net tax-supported debt: “approximates $9.1 billion, representing an above-average 6.5% of 2010 personal income.”
*Underfunded pension liability: The Kentucky Employees Retirement System was funded at only a 36.1 percent funding level as of June 30, 2011, down from a level of 97.3 percent level as of June 30, 2003.
…just another reason why it’s simply outrageous that — as we reported in the introduction to our current Future Shock series examining the public pension crisis that: “taxpayers are being forced to provide pensions to staff employees of the Kentucky Education Association (a private teachers’ union) and other private companies, including a credit union, several attorneys in private practice and not- for-profit organizations.”