For the past two years, the summer season has not been a good time for Illinois' general obligation bond ratings.
The summer of 1991 saw Standard & Poor's Corp. drop the state to AA from AA-plus, while Moody's Investors Service lowered the rating to Aa1 from Aaa. Further downgrades followed in the summer of 1992 as the Standard & Poor's rating fell another notch to AA-minus and Moody's' rating dropped to Aa.
Last week, however, Illinois appeared to have stemmed the seasonal downward rating spiral, which had been caused by the state's overspending and lean fund balances. Standard & Poor's affirmed the AA-minus rating with a stable outlook on $4.4 billion of illinois debt, and Moody's confirmed an Aa rating on $4.5 billion of debt.
The action was taken in anticipation of a $175 million GO bond issue the state is scheduled to competitively bid today,
For its part, Standard & Poor's said the rating reflects "a relatively stable economic base, moderate debt burden, and weakened financial position."
Moody's cited "the wealth and diversity of the Illinois economy" on the plus side, and "continued vulnerability of finances" on the negative side. The agency specifically pointed to lapse-period spending, which hit a record level of over $1 billion in fiscal 1993, and "a large accumulated general fund deficit."
Under lapse-period spending, the state uses revenues from the first three months of a coming fiscal year to pay expenses incurred in a current fiscal year.
George Hovanec, the state's deputy budget director, said the administration of Gov. Jim Edgar is pleased with the rating confirmations. He said the rating agencies recognized that the state met its revenue projections in fiscal 1993 and put together a "credible" budget for fiscal 1994, which began July 1.