SAN FRANCISCO — Oregon’s treasurer has proposed $280 million in debt capacity for the next two-year budget to help finance economic development projects.
Treasurer Ted Wheeler is pushing the proposal to the Debt Policy Advisory Commission, which has to approve the new debt. The debt would be backed by lottery proceeds.
“There does not appear to be any new general-fund debt fund capacity,” said treasury spokesman James Sinks. “This is lottery debt.”
Sinks said the treasurer is urging the legislature and Gov. John Kitzhaber to look at using the debt as a way to bolster Oregon’s business development.
The commission met Thursday to discuss the state’s overall debt picture, including long- and short-term estimates. It will continue the discussion this week and should make a proposal.
The commission’s most recent analysis in September recommended no new debt capacity for the 2011-2013 budget cycle. Fiscal 2011 ends June 30. Wheeler, who won reelection in November, is chairman of the commission.
Wheeler made headlines before the election when the debt commission unanimously backed his proposal to temporarily halt general-fund-backed public borrowing until finances recover.
In Oregon, the governor and Legislative Assembly decide debt capacity.
“It is early in the session and the legislature has not even taken up the issue yet, so it is hard to say what will happen. The governor did assume the restructuring in his proposed budget, which has been proposed to the legislature,” Sinks said.
Kitzhaber unveiled his budget last week. It recommends reducing general fund-supported general obligation issuance to $200 million from $1 billion during the two-year budget for fiscal 2010 and 2011, according to Jack Kenny, finance manager in the budget and management division.
The governor proposed a combined bond-issuance authority ceiling for GO and revenue bonds of $4.69 billion in the new biennial budget — $1.46 billion of GO bonds and $3.23 billion of revenue bonds. Most of the GO bonds will be double-barreled, or tied to other revenue sources other than the general fund.
Wheeler said the treasury’s debt management division has identified an opportunity to refinance part of the state’s lottery debt in order to allow for investments during the current legislative session.
Without refinancing, the Treasury projects just $9.4 million in lottery-backed debt capacity available in the next biennium. The state had $1.1 billion of outstanding lottery debt as of June 30.
The Treasury estimates the cost of the refinancing to make the $282 million of capacity accessible to be $1 million, spread over 20 years.
Oregon had $4.5 billion of outstanding GO debt as of June 30.