Monday, July 06, 2009
Reuters reports that Fitch Ratings reduced the rating on California's general obligation bonds from "A-minus" to "BBB", just two steps above junk status, as legislators continue to grapple with trying to make ends meet during the fiscal year that just started last week.
The state began issuing IOUs a few days ago, prompting the question, "Just what do you have to do to get downgraded to junk?"
At this point, they'll probably reach that milestone by simply doing nothing, which is, effectively, what they've been doing for about the last nine months to resolve the state's budget mess.
The ratings agency said they were keeping California "on watch" for another downgrade, the state's debt already the lowest rated of all 50 states.
The last time that the state had a "BBB" rating was in 2004, during the last budget crisis, shortly after Governor Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger who presided over one the largest housing bubbles in history which, in turn, generated oodles of tax revenue and helped make the budget problems go away for a few years.
There's a bit more in the report from Reuters:
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, said the other two main credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service, could soon follow Fitch's example. "I'm sure their patience is not deep," he said.Things will probably get worse before they get better...
Lower ratings threaten to raise California's borrowing costs during a severe cash crunch in Sacramento, the state capital, one of Fitch's top concerns.
"The folks who are going to end up paying the price are not investors, not the governor, not the legislature, but the taxpayers," Dresslar said.
Standard & Poor's has California's general obligation bonds rated "A" with CreditWatch with negative implications. Moody's has warned of a possible "multi-notch" downgrade in its "A2," sixth-highest investment grade credit rating of California's general obligation debt.
In a statement, Fitch said it cut its "A-" rating "based on the state's continued inability to achieve timely agreement on budgetary and cash flow solutions to its severe fiscal crisis."
California faces a $26.3 billion budget deficit for its fiscal year that began on July 1 and talks between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers to balance the state's books are plodding along.