As fiscal brinkmanship continues in Congress, state treasurer Nancy Kopp warned a Maryland Senate committee that a federal sequester and the resulting cuts to the state budget could result in a downgrade of Maryland’s triple-A credit rating from Moody’s Analytics, one of America’s three major credit rating agencies.
The big three New York bond rating agencies last week again affirmed Maryland’s almost sacred triple-A bond rating, attributing the decades-old stamp of approval to a strong economy, high incomes, prudent fiscal management and a willingness to raise taxes. But as they have for recent bond issues, the three agencies said the state government continues to face financial challenges from its above-average pension liabilities and likely federal budget cuts, along with an increasingly sluggish economy.
As the lid closes on the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers will likely double the flush tax from $30 to $60 to cover a projected $385 million shortfall in the Bay Restoration Fund, but some lawmakers say the tax hike aims to cover repeated raids on the fund that triggered a downgrade by Moody’s Investor Service 14 months ago.
Despite the state’s efforts to remain fiscally sound, Maryland is struggling to avoid the downgrading of its cherished top triple A bond rating due to possible federal budget cuts, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp told the House Appropriations Committee Friday.
Moody’s Investor Service is adding pension liabilities to the factors it reports publicly in rating total state debt, a new approach one expert called “very significant.” The new numbers showed that while Maryland was not among the top 10 states with the biggest long-term debt including pensions, it ranked between 13th and 17th among the states with the highest debt.