Top officials in the administration of Governor Charlie Baker are crowing about key fiscal watchdogs affirming the state’s second-from-highest bond rating. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings gave soon-to-be offered Massachusetts bonds the good rating based on the state’s strong and diverse economy and carefully balancing revenue and spending.
“The administration is pleased that two rating agencies have affirmed our bond ratings and recognized the Commonwealth’s record of strong financial management,” said Kristen Lepore, Baker’s budget chief.
The ratings could be a political boon for the Republican chief executive, who is expected to run for re-election. Moody’s and Fitch, respectively, praised policymakers — who include the Democratic Legislature — “demonstrated willingness to balance its budget” and “careful financial management.”
But the kind words were tempered. Both agencies noted the state’s hefty debt and pension liability burdens, issues that keep Massachusetts from getting a gold-plated rating.
Moody’s warned about “state debt ratios that are among the nation’s highest.” Fitch cautioned “debt and pension liabilities are high for a state.” Yet both said the outlook for the state’s rating is stable.
The third big bond rating agency has also given Massachusetts’ bonds the second-from-highest rating. But in late 2015, Standard & Poor’s changed the outlook for the state’s bond rating to “negative” — an early warning that an aspect of the state’s fiscal trajectory was amiss.
Bond ratings help determine how much it costs the state to borrow money. A credit downgrade could increase borrowing costs and be an embarrassing political albatross, while a credit upgrade could make it cheaper to borrow money and be a political win.
Former governor Deval Patrick, who led the state for eight years, including during the Great Recession, saw bond rating increases during his watch from Moody’s and S&P.
You can read the newest report from Moody’s here: http://bit.ly/2m620uy
You can read the newest report from Fitch here: http://bit.ly/2m67chZ