GFOA is always on the lookout for news items that will be useful for finance professionals, research that might help you do your job better, and legal and regulatory updates you need to know about. Check the GFOA news page for the updates and any relevant GFOA announcements.
Research from the Congressional Budget Office indicates that there are slight benefits to public-private partnerships in highway construction. The CBO concluded that private financing will increase the availability of funds for highway construction, but only in cases in which states or localities have chosen to restrict their spending by imposing legal constraints or budgetary limits on themselves.
Despite Detroit’s well-publicized woes, many see the city as a good place to start a business, according to the New York Times. Many groups are employing innovative methods of rebuilding the city, including a transplanted entrepreneur and writer whose project, Write a House, is providing free houses (for $500 a month) to writers. Another group, Young Detroit Builders, will remodel the homes, paid in part by crowdfunding and a matching grant from a non-profit.
On March 12, 2014, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Exploring Alternative Solutions to the Internet Sales Tax Issue, during which committee members discussed core issues that they would like to address in developing House legislation that would enable state and local governments to collect taxes on online retail sales. The hearing was significant in that it was the first action that the House Judiciary Committee has taken on this issue since the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Marketplace Fairness Act (S 743) in May 2013.
On March 10, 2014, the SEC announced a new program aimed at compelling government bond issuers to self-report violations of federal securities laws. While the SEC is prohibited from regulating government issuers under federal law, the commission can file enforcement actions against municipal issuers for misrepresentations about the prior compliance of bond offerings with continuing disclosure obligations.
According to a report from Pew Research that describes nine groups of Americans to reflect patterns of engagement with public libraries, public library users and proponents are not a niche group – 30% of Americans aged 16 and older are highly engaged with public libraries, and an additional 39% fall into medium engagement categories.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board has launched a “Putting EMMA to Work for You” campaign to raise mid-sized municipal issuers’ awareness of the importance of communicating with investors and complying with their disclosure obligations. The Electronic Municipal Market Access website is a resource for evaluating municipal finance options, complying with disclosure requirements and communicating with investors.
In what industry participants have termed a “game changer,” the Orange County Employees Retirement System, working in collaboration with investment professionals from other public pension plans, has created an innovative platform that will provide small and mid-sized public pension plans with superior access to the industry’s leading private equity partnerships. Bundling public pension assets through an unprecedented joint procurement process opens new doors to achieving superior portfolio returns in what heretofore has been an inefficient and costly asset class for many.
For the 100 largest public employee pension systems in the country, cash and security holdings totaled $3,191.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, reaching the highest level since the survey began collecting data in 1968, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cash and security holdings had a quarter-to-quarter increase of 4.2%, from $3,061.6 billion last quarter, and a year-to-year increase of 12.5%, from $2,836.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.
As many local governments have reduced the level of pension benefits they provide to new hires, the importance of boosting savings through supplemental retirement plans has grown, yet very little is known about these plans.
State pensions reached an average funded level of 75% for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, up three points from the previous year, according to Wilshire Consulting, which cites the funds’ exposure to equities – the S&P 500 index rose 30% in 2013. This is the highest funding level since 2008, when it was at 81%, according to Bloomberg, which noted that “the 10-year peak was 95% in 2007, while the low was 64% in 2009.” Pension assets grew to $2.12 trillion in 2013.
Individuals Permitted to Retain Non-ACA-Compliant Health Insurance Policies into 2017
The State Health Care Cost Containment Commission, organized by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, released a report on how the nation’s governors and other state leaders can transform the current health-care system into one that is more integrated, coordinated, patient-centered, and cost-effective.The report aims to jump start state-level action on health-care cost containment as states begin new legislative sessions.
The GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting program has reached a major milestone – 4,000 submissions. It’s an impressive rate of growth, up from 800 submissions 20 years ago.
Municipalities’ plans for sustainability vary widely, but there are a number of steps most local governments can take to improve their strategies for urban development, according to Triple Pundit.
On January 31, 2014, the GFOA provided comments to three federal agencies about proposed regulations that could harm state and local government debt issuers. The proposal is intended to make banks more resilient and capable of weathering periods of fiscal stress without direct government intervention by requiring banks to maintain a designated level of high-quality liquid assets. As drafted, however, the proposal fails to classify municipal securities as high-quality liquid assets.
Many public-sector organizations across the country have limited or reduced part-time employment to less 30 hours a week “to avoid providing them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” according to the New York Times. Although coverage requirements are to be eased for larger employers, employers’ 2015 obligations will be based on the hours employees work in 2014.
Eleven states are taking steps to make prices for health-care services available to the public, in an effort to make it possible for consumers to shop for lower-cost providers and services. Colorado is working to create an all-payer claims database containing information from every receipt for a health-care service provided in the state, according to the Washington Post.