Category Archives: Finance

Municipal Utility Says Collaborations Save Money While Lowering Emissions

Source: American City and County, August 19, 2008

Officials at Roseville Electric, a city-owned electricity provider in Roseville, Calif., say collaborating with local businesses, government organizations and consumers has helped it save money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The utility has completed several projects, most recently working with St. Paul, Minn.-based HB Fuller to implement an energy efficiency plan at its manufacturing facility that saved $44,000 annually while eliminating 430,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.

AASA Survey Finds Rising Fuel, Energy Costs Stressing School Budgets

Source: American Association of School Administrators, 2008

From the press release:
Rising fuel and energy costs are taking a toll on school system budgets nationwide, according to the results of a new survey released today by the American Association of School Administrators. The eight-question AASA Fuel and Energy Snapshot Survey asked school superintendents about the effect of rising fuel and energy costs on their school districts. Ninety-nine percent of respondents reported these rising costs are having an impact on their school systems. Further, they reported that conserving energy, cutting back on student field trips and consolidating bus routes are among the top steps districts are taking to minimize the impact of rising fuel and energy costs. Meanwhile, few states are stepping forward to assist school systems struggling to meet escalating these rising costs.
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Survey Results
Charts and Graphs
Snapshot of Superintendents’ Responses

Increasing the Value of Federal Spending on Health Care

ISource: Peter R. Orszag, CBO Testimony, before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. House of Representatives, July 16, 2008

The rate of growth in health care costs is the most important factor influencing the federal government’s long-term fiscal situation. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that, without any changes in federal law, total spending on health care will rise from 16 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007 to 25 percent in 2025 and 49 percent in 2082, and net federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will rise from 4 percent of GDP to almost 20 percent over the same period. Many of the other factors that will play a key role in determining future fiscal conditions–including the actuarial deficit in Social Security and a decision about extending the 2001 and 2003 tax legislation past its scheduled expiration in 2010–pale by comparison over the long term with the impact and challenges of containing growth in the cost of federal health insurance programs.
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Investing in Infrastructure

Source: Peter Orzag, Congressional Budget Office, Testimony before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, July 10, 2008

From the blog:
The testimony makes the following key points:
• Estimates from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other sources indicate that additional spending of up to tens of billions of dollars each year on transportation infrastructure projects could be justified. Some of that spending would simply maintain the current performance of existing infrastructure; other projects would improve performance to the extent that the economic benefits exceeded the costs (although some projects would have net benefits that were smaller than those that could be obtained from spending on items besides infrastructure).
• Although the rationale for some additional spending is probably strong, the economic returns on specific projects vary widely. Accordingly, even if the Congress were to increase spending, it would be important to identify which projects provided the largest potential benefit from limited budgetary resources.
• Some of the demand for additional spending on infrastructure could be met by providing incentives to use existing infrastructure more efficiently and by devoting current budgetary resources to their highest valued uses. For example, the Department of Transportation has reported that the demand for new spending on highways could be reduced by as much as $20 billion annually if congestion pricing were implemented to encourage efficient use of existing infrastructure.
• A special-purpose entity, such as a federally chartered infrastructure bank, could provide funding for infrastructure outside of the annual appropriation process but would not be a source of “free money”: Any reduction in the federal shares of project costs (obtained by reducing grant sizes or by shifting from grants to loans or loan guarantees with smaller subsidy costs) would require greater shares to be borne by project users, state or local taxpayers, or both.

See also:
Webcast
Issues and Options in Infrastructure Investment, May 2008

Budgeting for Capital Investment

Source: Rudolph G. Penner, Urban Institute, Testimony Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, June 13, 2008

From the abstract:
The unified budget of the U. S. government is, in most respects, a cash budget. It is somewhat biased against public investment, because the benefits of such investments accrue over a period of time whereas the cash outlay is immediate. This testimony looks at options for directing more funds to highways, mass transit, and other public investments. It examines higher fuel taxes, tolls and congestion fees; capital budgeting; infrastructure banks; a capital revolving fund; public-private partnerships; and approaches to improving the efficiency of current grants and subsidies. It concludes that tolls and congestion fees are very promising as are public-private partnerships. A capital revolving fund would be useful for agencies that only invest occasionally. A capital budget and infrastructure banks are less desirable.

Redressing America’s Public Infrastructure Deficit

Source: Bernard L. Schwartz, New America Foundation, Testimony Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, June 19, 2008

Over the past several decades, we have accumulated a sizeable public infrastructure deficit. As a result, a variety of infrastructure bottlenecks-traffic congested roads, clogged ports, and an antiquated air traffic system, to mention just a few-have begun to undercut our economy’s efficiency and undermine our quality of life.

One of the reasons for this infrastructure deficit is that our system for financing infrastructure has become increasingly inadequate with the passage of time and has not kept up with the practices of other advanced industrialized economies….

Financing America’s Infrastructure

Source: Douglas Rediker, Heidi Crebo-Rediker, New America Foundation
June 9, 2008

From the summary:
America’s basic infrastructure is outdated, worn, and in some cases, failing. Most experts agree that it is inadequate for meeting the demands of the 21st-century global economy. If we are to remain competitive, we must invest in capital assets like roads, ports, bridges, mass transit, water systems, and broadband infrastructure. Many other countries — both rich and poor — see investing in infrastructure as imperative for economic survival and success in an increasingly competitive economic environment. But the United States has lagged in infrastructure investment, in both relative and absolute terms. We are spending less than 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, while China and India are spending 9 percent and 5 percent of GDP, respectively.

If the nation’s infrastructure needs are apparent, so too are the limits on available funds in federal, state, and local government coffers. In this presidential election year, we can see these limits clearly, as the nation’s spending priorities are magnified by electoral politics. Although significant government funding will likely continue to play a key role in the development of public infrastructure, the scale of our funding needs increasingly compels us to look beyond government to close the financing gap. It is for this reason that public support for private sector infrastructure investment is essential.

The good news is that while the federal government struggles to find funds to address its spending needs there is abundant private capital for infrastructure investment. An estimated $400 billion in global funds are available for equity investment in infrastructure, and the funds available to support the debt component amount to several trillion dollars if we include global central bank reserves, global pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds. Rather than focus on these large pools of global capital as a threat, we should view them as an opportunity. So, while we have enormous infrastructure financing needs, there are also enormous pools of capital available for investment. The trick is to bring the two together in a commercial, sustainable, and politically acceptable way.

The Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Outlook April 2008 Update

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-783R, April 2008

Our updated simulations continue to illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook is unsustainable. Despite some improvement in the long-term outlook for federal health and retirement spending, the federal government still faces large and growing structural deficits driven primarily by rising health care costs and known demographic trends.