NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings assigns an 'A-' rating to the following lease revenue bonds of the California State Public Works Board (SPWB):
--$260,000,000 lease revenue bonds (Judicial Council of California) 2014 series B (New Stockton Courthouse);
--$156,000,000 lease revenue bonds (Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) 2014 series C (North Kern State Prison: Various Buildings.
The bonds will be sold via negotiated sale on April 10.
In addition, Fitch affirms the following ratings:
--Approximately $10.6 billion in state appropriation bonds, at 'A-', including lease revenue bonds series 2014A, scheduled to close on April 3.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
Lease rental payments made by state agencies to the SPWB from first lawfully available funds for use and occupancy of facilities, subject to annual state legislative appropriation.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
RATING LINKED TO STATE: The 'A-' rating on lease revenue bonds, one notch below the state of California's general obligation (GO) rating, reflects the appropriation required for debt service payment and solid program mechanics.
CALIFORNIA'S GENERAL CREDIT QUALITY: The rating incorporates the size and breadth of the state's economy and tax base, a moderate debt load, and the institutional improvements made by the state in recent years that have contributed to improved financial performance, offset by significant remaining accumulated budgetary and financial challenges.
IMPROVED FISCAL MANAGEMENT: Institutionalized changes to fiscal management in recent years, combined with the ongoing economic and revenue recovery have enabled the state to materially improve its overall fiscal standing. Notable progress includes timely, more structurally sound budgets, spending restraint, and sizable reductions in budgetary debt.
RATING LINKED TO STATE CREDIT QUALITY: The rating is sensitive to changes in the state's GO bond rating, to which this rating is linked.
The SPWB is California's primary means of financing state facilities, with bonds benefiting from a strong lease structure and the essential nature of leased assets. Debt service is paid from lease rental payments made pursuant to specific project leases. Lease rental payments are appropriated annually by the legislature, with the lessee agency required to use the first funds lawfully available to it for lease payments on SPWB debt. Abatement is possible, but abatement risk is mitigated by a requirement to maintain rental interruption insurance.
The current series is being issued under a series indenture pursuant to the master indenture, and thus benefits from access to the SPWB's $161.6 million master indenture reserve. Prior to this sale, the master indenture reserve backs approximately $9.4 billion in outstanding SPWB lease bonds issued under the master indenture and under incorporated indentures. The current offering will finance courthouse and correctional facilities projects, including capitalized interest during construction periods.
The SPWB's bond rating is linked to the state's GO bond rating, which is 'A', Outlook Stable. Fitch upgraded the state's rating in August 2013, based on the institutional improvements made by the state in recent years, its disciplined approach to achieving and maintaining structural balance in recent budgets, and the consequent fiscal progress made to date by the state as it recovers from the severe budgetary and cash flow crisis of 2008-2009. Fitch believes that these gains provide the state with a greater capacity to address future fiscal and budgetary cyclicality. However, California's credit standing is likely to remain lower than that of most states for the foreseeable future given the magnitude of the state's accumulated budgetary and financial challenges.
For further information on California's GO rating, please see Fitch's rating action commentary from March 5, 2014, 'Fitch Assigns 'A' Rating to $1.6B California GOs; Outlook Stable', available at www.fitchratings.com.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
--'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (Aug. 14, 2012);
--'U.S. State Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (Aug. 14, 2012).
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
U.S. State Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria