A report by asset manager Conning that placed Connecticut last among the 50 states in credit quality has state Treasurer Denise Nappier up in arms.
“Conning’s speculation over Connecticut’s fiscal health adds little to the public discourse over the very real challenges faced by states across the country,” Nappier said in a statement. “Its simplistic methodology fails to account for the unique manner in which Connecticut issues debt for school construction and other projects.”
In its latest “State of the States” report, which it issues after every April and October, Hartford-based Conning dropped Connecticut to 50th from 37th, citing a high debt and expenditure burden, weak employment growth and declining home values.
Connecticut’s 13-level drop in Conning’s rankings was the largest of any state.
Conning said year-over-year home prices in the state fell 4.7%, according to the Federal Housing Agency. It also said Connecticut lost 14,700 jobs over the most recent 12-month period. Only Hawaii has lost more jobs as measured by a percentage of all jobs over this period, according to Conning.
Connecticut’s unemployment rate crept back up to 9% in October, the state’s Department of Labor said Monday.
“Our results indicate that the state has yet to recover from the Great Recession and is very vulnerable to federal budget cuts and severe credit stress if another recession arrives soon,” the report said. “Ongoing job losses and declining home values are a forewarning of future credit stress, placing Connecticut’s existing published credit ratings at risk of downgrades.”
Nappier said Connecticut’s debt is centralized at the state level, unlike many states that have county forms of government and issue more debt at the local level.
“Were Conning to make this more pragmatic comparison, state and local debt combined and compared to [gross domestic product] puts Connecticut squarely in the middle of the pack, not at the bottom,” she said.
Last January, Moody’s Investors Service lowered Connecticut’s general obligation bond rating to Aa3 from Aa2, angering Nappier and Gov. Dannel Malloy. Moody’s pointed to budgetary and pension shortfalls, and depleted reserves. Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Kroll Bond Rating Agency all assign AA ratings.
The state’s budget chief last week told a legislative panel that Connecticut faces a $365 million deficit. Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, speaking before the Appropriations Committee, said cost overruns in the state’s Medicaid program along with declining revenues contributed to the shortfall.
Barnes’ next official budget estimates are due to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo on Tuesday.
The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority began a retail period on Tuesday for its $143 million sale of Series 2012 F-1 and F-2 housing mortgage finance program bonds. The institutional sale will be Tuesday. JPMorgan is lead manager, while Lamont Financial Services Corp. is the financial advisor.