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.
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.
Sprawl versus compact development – it’s a complicated dichotomy, and a crucial argument in the study of sustainable urban development. Measuring Sprawl 2014, a new study from Smart Growth America that analyzes development patterns in U.S. metropolitan areas and counties, is looking to see which communities are more compact and connected and which are more sprawling, and examining how index scores relate to life in that community.
The Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College have partnered to develop the Public Plans Database, which contains comprehensive financial, governance, and plan design information for 126 state and local defined benefit plans, along with additional data on state defined contribution plans. The database represents more than 85% of total state and local government pension assets and members.
Beginning in mid-May, the U.S. Treasury Department will increase its monitoring of state and local government bond issuers through a new unit. The new Office of State and Local Finance will monitor and report on municipal issuers and market factors and conditions that contribute to stress in the municipal market, including public pensions. The office will also organize and propose federal policy solutions to address their concerns in these areas. Leading the office will be Kent Hiteshew, who is leaving his current position as Senior Managing Director of J.P. Morgan’s Housing Finance Group.
Many municipal governments can use Medicare to lower their OPEB costs, according to Moody’s Investors Service. As retiree health costs increase with the aging of the workforce, retirement benefits “present an increasing credit risk for many U.S. municipal governments.
Local governments are in a better position to make innovations to the procurement process than states, according to GovTech. New York City has initiated reforms aimed at shortening the procurement cycle and bundling similar contracts, while Oakland County, Michigan, developed a program that allows other governments to use its technology.
State departments of transportation are spending more money building new roads than maintaining the ones they have, despite the fact that financial liabilities are mounting and conditions are not improving for America’s drivers, according to Repair Priorities 2014, the latest report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense analyzing road conditions and spending priorities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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.
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.
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.