Treasurer Lynn Fitch joined state economist Dr. Darrin Webb today in giving an economic state of the state briefing before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and other members of the Legislature.
“Managing our outstanding debt effectively is critical to maintaining our good state bond rating,” Fitch told the legislators. “And, strong ratings make Mississippi more attractive to businesses looking to invest. Overall, we are doing well, but there are areas where we can do better and make Mississippi a true magnet for economic development.”
In her first term in office, Treasurer Fitch took proactive steps to restructure state debt to save taxpayers $69 million.
The Treasurer spent a good portion of her discussion on what legislators can do to improve our state’s credit rating. “All three rating agencies have cited concerns about the underfunded liabilities of our pension system,” said Fitch. “One agency noted that Mississippi’s pension liabilities are among the nation’s highest. This needs to be addressed.”
Fitch also reminded legislators that rating agencies raise serious concerns over the state’s history of relying on one-time money for budgeting and urged them, as she has in years past, to not resort to this method for regular expenditures.
In closing, Treasurer Fitch gave a preview of the Debt Affordability Study that she will shortly send to the Legislature. That report is a tool that the legislature can use in planning debt financing and tracking debt. It gives legislators an opportunity to make comparisons to other states and to make informed long-range decisions.
Unlike other states, Mississippi does not require the Treasurer to develop a Debt Affordability Study. However, Treasurer Fitch started this practice in 2014 because rating agencies have indicated it is a good example of strong debt management and a positive factor in their ratings of Mississippi’s fiscal health.
A copy of Treasurer Fitch’s presentation can be made available upon request.