It’s increasingly clear that the federal government’s “Build America Bonds” program, part of the stimulus, was a backdoor bailout for California. Under the program, states can issue taxable bonds, with the federal government reimbursing them for the higher interest rate required on such bonds, relative to tax-exempt debt.

Monday, as we reported, Municipal Market Advisors figured out that California and Texas together accounted for a disproportionate share of Build America Bonds.

Today, Standard & Poor’s reports that California will issue $4.5 billion of general-obligation bonds soon, with $2 billion of that done through the Build America taxable program.

That brings California’s share of Build America Bonds to $7.23 billion out of $36 billion issued, according to ThomsonReuters via the FT, or 21 percent of the total. This figure doesn’t include $1 billion issued by the University of California, and doesn’t include local or public-authority issuance, either.

By contrast, the next-biggest issuer, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, is responsible for $1.4 billion, and two New York entities — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York State Dormitory Authority (which does housing and hospital stuff) — have together issued $1.6 billion.

If California’s usual debt purchasers — tax-exempt investors — are saturated, maybe that’s a sign that the state should dial back on its borrowing. Instead, the feds have given it an end-run around normal market signals.

That would even be OK in a short-term emergency, if the feds had required states to at least start to correct their spending imbalances — too much healthcare and education commensurate to results, not enough infrastructure — in return for stimulus money.

You may also like

Wind costs could blow up

The long-term cost of subsidies for New York’s new offshore wind turbine projects could exceed $6 billion—or three times the amount acknowledged by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s energy agency. Read More

NY’s leaky gas taxes

When motorists in New York top off their gas tanks this Labor Day weekend, they’ll be paying an average of about 45 cents per gallon in state and local fuel taxes—the 5th highest total in the nation, and second highest in the Northeast. Read More

Cuomo’s upstate hype continues

Governor Cuomo frequently asserts that his policies have ignited an economic turnaround in upstate New York, and he's been known to cherry-pick numbers to back himself up. He was at it again during a swing through the Mohawk Valley earlier this week—and, once again, the statistical cherries were in bloom. Read More

Thruway toll credit crashes

In their budget bills, state Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans both had the good sense to reject one of the most egregious fiscal-political gimmicks ever to emerge from Governor Andrew Cuomo: a temporary income tax credit that would have reimbursed a portion of Thruway tolls paid by New York State residents and businesses. Read More

Cuomo’s magical mystery cash

So, how is Governor Andrew Cuomo paying for that $100 billion infrastructure "development initiative" that, as he put in his State of the State message yesterday, "would make Governor Rockefeller jealous"? The answer: for the most part, he actually isn't. Read More

Power for tolls?

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) could be taking the money-losing state Barge Canal off the back of the Thruway Authority under the fiscal 2017 state budget that will be proposed today by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Assuming this Buffalo News report is true, it would explain how Cuomo intends to finance his proposal to freeze Thruway tolls for five years even while building the $4.8 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement. Read More

Gone with the windfall

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for allocating $5.4 billion in windfall funds has survived, almost intact, in the agreed-upon New York State budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which starts April 1. Consistent with Cuomo’s original vision, the final plan shortchanges basic transportation and municipal infrastructure. Read More

A tangled broadband proposal

As part of his plan for allocating $5.4 billion in one-shot windfall funds, Governor Cuomo wants to spend $500 million to expand the availability and capacity of broadband Internet access across New York. But given pressing traditional infrastructure needs, should broadband rate a high priority? Do we really need it? The governor's case, on closer inspection, is less than compelling. Read More