The Florida Cabinet Tuesday authorized the issuance of up to $490 million of turnpike refunding bonds to lower interest rates within existing maturities.

The bonds will be sold competitively in one or more series.

Ben Watkins, director of the Division of Bond Finance, told the Cabinet that during the first quarter his office continued to take advantage of historic low interest rates in the market and sold $790 million of refunding bonds for total present-value savings of $157 million.

Watkins also reported on recent refunding sales of public education capital outlay bonds.

On Jan. 29, $324.6 million of PECO refunding bonds were sold to Citi as the low bidder with a true interest cost of 1.64%. The sale resulted in a present- value savings of $69.3 million or a reduction of 18.1% of refunded par amount. The previous interest rate on the bonds was 4.86%.

On Feb. 28, $263.5 million of PECO refunding bonds were sold to Bank of America Merrill Lynch at a true interest cost of 2.57%, a reduction from 4.85% on the previous rate. The sale resulted in present value savings of $51.5 million or 17.3% of refunded par amount.

The Cabinet also asked if the state’s policy, which prohibits the state retirement fund to make investments in companies that have activities in Sudan and Iran, could be applied to bond sales. Watkins said such a policy could be applied to negotiated transactions, and that he would formulate a policy for the Cabinet to review.

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