SAN FRANCISCO — Citing economic strains that have battered the state’s budget, Moody’s Investors Service Thursday assigned a negative outlook to Hawaii’s Aa2 general obligation bond rating.
The state is expected to sell $534 million of GOs next week in a deal split between tax-exempt refunding bonds and taxable new-money Build America Bonds.
Moody’s action also affects about $4.7 billion in outstanding GOs.
The rating agency said that its negative outlook reflects uncertainty over the recovery of tourism, Hawaii’s primary economic engine, along with increasing pressures on the state government’s liquidity and the increasing use of one-time budget measures that will increase budget gaps in future years.
“Future credit reviews will focus on the state’s revenue performance and success in achieving targeted spending reductions to balance the budget,” the Moody’s report said.
Even though the state has already closed $2.7 billion in budget gaps for the 2009-2001 biennium, declining revenues have created another $1.2 billion gap, Moody’s said.
Next week’s bond issue in part reflects the state’s methods for dealing with those gaps.
Proceeds for the $222.3 million tax-exempt refunding Series DY will be used to generate up-front budget savings of $16 million this year and $72 million in fiscal 2011, with higher debt service costs in the out years.
“The state has used similar refundings for one-time budget relief recently, contributing to structural budget imbalance beyond the current biennium,” according to Moody’s.
The bond sale will also include $312 million of new-money Series DX taxable Build America Bonds. Citi and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are underwriters.
Fitch Ratings affirmed its AA rating and negative outlook this week, and Standard & Poor’s affirmed its AA rating and stable outlook.
“Declines in tourism-related metrics and revenues, construction spending, and other related economic activity have led to lower general fund tax revenue growth rates, but management has been willing to implement aggressive solutions to mitigate the effects,” Standard & Poor’s analyst Paul Dyson said in a news release.