Florida’s Cabinet Tuesday authorized Division of Bond Finance director Ben Watkins to sell $795 million of refunding bonds and $237 million of new debt.

The deals consist of $320 million of full-faith-and-credit public education capital outlay refunding bonds, $57 million of Everglades restoration revenue bonds, $475 million of education lottery revenue refunding bonds, and $180 million of new-money education lottery revenue bonds.

Watkins told the Cabinet the Everglades restoration bonds represented the last legislative authorization for that particular program.

Watkins also reported that his division on Jan. 7 sold $349.8 million of Florida Forever environmental protection bonds to a syndicate led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bonds were sold as $262 million of new tax-exempt and taxable Build America Bonds and $88 million of refunding bonds.

The new-money bonds priced to yield a combined annual true interest cost rate of 3.91%. Watkins said using BABs saved 22 basis points compared to a conventional tax-exempt bond issue, or an estimated net present-value savings of $5 million. The refunding resulted in present-value savings of $6.6 million, or 6.6% of the principal amount refunded.

The Florida Forever sale represented the final authorization of bond financing for the long-held program. However, Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to recommend some new bonding as part of his environmental initiatives in the fiscal 2011 budget.

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