Claire Cohen of Fitch Investors Service was the first-team All-American Municipal Analyst in the broad-based general obligation category entitled States, Cities, Counties and School Districts.

Cohen was last year's first-team All-American in the State General Obligation Bond sector.

While Cohen won the top honors, she faced strong competition from Hyman Grossman of Standard & Poor's Corp., Walter Carroll from Merrill Lynch & Co.'s UIT department, as well as Catherine Fleischmann and George Leung, both of Moody's Investors Service.

Leung and Fleischmann, as a team, would have won the category.

"Pressures from recession can cloud what may or may not be happening...We must wait and see what the recession really means," Cohen said.

"Back in the early 1980's, it was clear what the recession meant in terms of heavy industry, but it's not as clear what the current recession will mean to real estate and finance," she said.

When asked about the outlook for G.O. bonds, Cohen said, "There are many problems, many stemming from intergovernmental difficulties at the Federal to state level, and at the States to local government level."

She noted that recent court decisions over the past few years indicate that states need to be lobbyists to Washington, D.C., rather than relying on clear and separate powers.

Cohen believes that states do not have the tools necessary to become "mini-federal governments."

However, states can meet the current economic environment's challenges by recording priorities in light of expenditures and revenues.

"At the State G.O. level, the larger the operation, the more we [analysts] need to comprehend," she said.

She noted several real initiatives in California and Minnesota, where steps are being taken in attempts to move human services, welfare, local aid (particularly in Minnesota) and special fund administration items, off the States' budgets.

In summary, Cohen said, "government credit is still stable in this country, with exceptions such as Bridgeport and the Richmond [CA] school district...I believe they are more resilient than people are giving them credit."

Ultimately, she said the shifting of responsibilities from the federal government to the state level highlights important equity issues. Once many of these responsibilities are shifted to the states, they may be able to raise revenues more easily, she added.

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