Ohio is refilling some finance team pools

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Ohio's state treasurer is reviewing proposals for a fresh underwriting and remarketing pool, while the Ohio Public Facilities Commission has launched a selection process for attorneys to work on $3 billion in planned borrowing over the next year.

Law firms interested in working with the facilities commission have until April 3rd to submit their proposals under a request for qualifications issued in February. The commission intends to select a single firm to serve as issuer counsel to work on all deals and to qualify several firms as part of a qualified bond counsel pool for selection on a deal-by-deal basis.

The commission plans to issue $3 billion of debt beginning in July 2019 through June 2023 in 20 to 25 transactions, said state debt manager Kurt Kauffman.

“There has been no decision as of now on competitive versus negotiated method of sale, so no underwriters have been selected,” Kauffmann said. “In recent years, the OPFC has sold its bonds on a competitive basis.”

The commission issues bond for higher education, common schools, local infrastructure, conservation, natural resources, coal research and development and third frontier research & development.

Separately, the state Treasurer's Office is reviewing proposals submitted for underwriting and remarketing services through the current fiscal year. The deadline was in late February but the RFQ remains open and firms can still submit proposals. The RFQ "will remain open after that date" with the treasurer's office "reviewing responses as received," reads a notice. Firms chosen would work on deals through March 15, 2023.

Jonathan Azoff, director of debt management in the treasurer’s office, said there is no particular transaction for which this request for qualification is associated. Azoff said the state has a $35 million bond issue scheduled for May.

Ohio's general obligation highway capital improvement bonds are rated AAA by S&P Global Ratings and Kroll Bond Rating Agency. Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service rate the bonds AA-plus and Aa1 respectively. The state has $925 million outstanding in highway capital improvement bonds and is constitutionally limited to an annual issuance of no more than $220 million.

Moody’s rates the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission senior lien revenue bonds Aa2 and the junior lien bonds Aa3. S&P rates the senior bonds AA-minus and the junior bonds A-plus. Fitch Ratings rates the bonds AA and A-plus. The commission’s debt outstanding totals approximately $1.5 billion.

Ohio's new governor, Mike DeWine, has proposed raising the gas tax by 18 cents in a bid to raise $1.2 billion a year to repair the state’s roads.

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