Florida bond deals could take hit in US tax overhaul – Florida Politics (blog)
Florida taxpayers could lose billions of dollars in future savings under part of pending federal tax-reform legislation that would limit the ability of states and local governments to refinance bonds.
“This is down in the weeds, but it is extraordinarily important,” said Ben Watkins, director of the state Division of Bond Finance, after briefing aides to Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members on Wednesday.
Sweeping tax bills have passed the U.S. House and Senate, and the final version will have to be worked out in negotiations between the two chambers. But Watkins said both bills contain a provision that would prohibit the “advance refunding” of tax-exempt bonds.
The ability to refinance bonds during a period of low interest rates allowed the state to save $2.5 billion in a 6 ½-year period that ended in December 2016, according to the Division of Bond Finance.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year alone, the state executed 13 refundings, totaling about $3 billion in debt that resulted in $619 million in savings.
The ability to refinance bonds has been the prime reason Florida government has been able to reduce its overall debt — which peaked at more than $28 billion in 2010 — by more than $4 billion through June 2016.
But if the new tax law prohibits the refinancings, it means Florida will not be able to realize similar savings in the future, although the scope of the savings will depend on whether interest rates rise or not.
“It impairs our ability to reduce interest rates and save money for our citizens and taxpayers,” Watkins said in an interview.
Watkins said state and local government bond officials were given no early indication that federal lawmakers were looking at ending the practice as part of